Review: Murder on the Orient Express

Score: B+

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley

Running Time: 114 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

Shot in sumptuous 65mm and imbued with a surprising giddiness, Murder on the Orient Express is a delightfully old-fashioned whodunit.

With a glorious mustache that must be seen to be believed, Kenneth Branagh slips into the role of Hercule Poirot quite comfortably. Persnickety but brilliant, Poirot continually proves how he lives up to the title of the World's Greatest Detective.

This version of Agatha Christie's novel doesn't really tweak the story that much. It's still set in the 1930s, and the characters are still their same archetypes, each with murky motives and backstories in their relation to the murder victim. But the film plays out the mystery so effectively, keeping you guessing until the end (unless you've read the novel or seen one of the many other versions).

And despite some questionable special effects, director of photography Haris Zambourloukos (Branagh's right-hand man for the last decade) creates some truly stunning shots, including a gorgeous pan of a busy kitchen (featuring bread fresh out of the oven that had me salivating) and a climactic confrontation that resembles Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper.

The cast is suitably star-studded, and even if you're sick of some of them (looking at you, Johnny Depp and Josh Gad), they each play their parts perfectly, with some making full meals out of mere scraps in the script. Of the suspects, Michelle Pfeiffer – glamorous and unapologetically hedonistic – and Leslie Odom, Jr. – trying to restrain his righteous indignation – shine the brightest.

The world didn't need another version of Murder on the Orient Express (or Death on the Nile, which gets teased in the last scene). But if you're going to re-do something, you might as well do it well. This is mystery done well, and even if it's old-fashioned, it's so refreshing compared to so many of the hyperactive ugly blockbusters we have today. If you need a break from superhero movies, this is your smart alternative.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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