DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews
 
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (director: Kenneth Branagh; screenwriters: Michael Green/based on the novel by Agatha Christie; cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos; editor: Mick Audsley; music: Patrick Doyle; cast: Kenneth Branagh (Hercule Poirot), Johnny Depp (Edward Ratchett), Michelle Pfeiffer (Caroline Hubbard), Penélope Cruz (Pilar Estravados), Willem Dafoe (Gerhard Hardman), Judi Dench (Princess Dragomiroff), Derek Jacobi (Edward Henry Masterman), Leslie Odom Jr (Dr. Arbuthnot), Daisy Ridley (Mary Debenham), Marwan Kenzari (Pierre Michel), Lucy Boynton (Countess Andrenyi), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (Binjamino Marquez), Sergei Polunin (Count Rudolph Andrenyi),Tom Bateman (Bouc), Olivia Colman (Hildegarde Schmidt), Miranda Raison (Sonia Armstrong), Micael Rouse (British Police Chief Inspector), Josh Gad (Hector MacQueen); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Kenneth Branagh, Mark Gordon, Judy Hofflund, Simon Kinberg, Michael Schaefer. Ridley Scott; 20th Century Fox; 2017)

"In this listless remake of the Agatha Christie 1934 novel that was filmed in 1974 by Sidney Lumet, the Orient Express gets stuck in the middle of nowhere."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In this listless remake of the Agatha Christie 1934 novel that was filmed in 1974 by Sidney Lumet, the Orient Express gets stuck in the middle of nowhere. The Englishman, primarily known for his stage work, Kenneth Branagh ("Thor"/"Hamlet"), directs and stars in heavy makeup as the world-renowned Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. The production is  unappealing and lacking in charm. Michael Greene's slight screenplay never matches in value the film's gorgeous visuals or the accurate period set designs. The star-filled cast as a whole give cold performances and never meshed together as richly drawn characters.

In the 1920s, in Jerusalem, Poirot solves a robbery involving
a priest, a rabbi, and an imam. In Istanbul, Poirot accepts the invitation of the train owner's party- boy son Bouc (Tom Bateman) for a free ride to vacation in Calais. Before the detective can finish reading a Charles Dickens novel, one of the passengers is murdered and everyone aboard becomes a suspect to be questioned by Poirot.

The first-class passengers aboard include
the one killed, a crude, nervous, wealthy American gangster receiving death threat notes and using the alias of Ratchett (Johnny Depp) while posing as an art dealer. His entourage include the deferential valet (Sir Derek Jacobi) and his untrustworthy private secretary MacQueen (Josh Gad). Some of the other passengers include the snooty Russian Princess Dragomiroff (Dame Judi Dench) and her obsequious travel companion Hildegarde Schmidt (Olivia Colman); the religious missionary nut Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz); the secretive governess Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley) and her black Brit doctor friend (Leslie Odom Jr., the actor from Hamilton); the leery-eyed, middle-aged socialite (Michelle Pfeiffer); and the tough-talking gun-toting professor (Willem Dafoe).

The murder takes place at night. In the morning the train gets derailed (like the film) because of an avalanche and ends up stuck in a snowy field. In this setting the great detective  checks out the first-class passengers and the conductor, and shows us why he's the best detective in the world. The reason for the crime is revealed as a revenge motive, as Poirot solves the case but in the final act is puzzled on how to handle the humanistic emotions it fills him with. Too bad the ending resembled a second-rate crime drama one could see on cable.

REVIEWED ON 11/10/2017       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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