Murder on the Orient Express


Although the story remains fairly true to the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie, this third screen adaptation (following adaptations in 1974 and 2001) is a bit of a mess. And that’s putting it mildly. Worse, and as ironical as it sounds, the film loses steam even before the titular locomotive pulls out of the first act. An all-star cast lead by director Kenneth Branagh isn’t enough, even with the latter portraying Belgian master detective Hercule Poirot who turns out to be more moustache than man. Which is sad, given that literary crime fiction has Poirot second only to Arthur Conan Doyle’s super sleuth on 221B Baker Street. But in this film, Christie’s most famous character is reduced to a mumbling idiot who would rather set both feet in horse poop just to make a half-baked point about order and balance.

Shot on 65mm film, aerial vistas of a train trudging through the Alps sure looks pretty. The production design also boasts of lavish set pieces, plush backdrops, and costumes tailored to that era. But really, all we want is an old-fashioned murder mystery. Perhaps an amazing display of deductive reasoning before arriving at a twist ending? Surely, that isn’t too much to ask. Add the mouthwatering cast in a plot that thickens into one of the most ingenious yet baffling cases penned by Christie and we should have been watching a first-class whodunit in this day and age of cinema. But as it turns out, this was indeed asking for too much. Like the bloodied victim, something dies very early in the film. And that’s before the story starts juggling the remaining 12 suspects into the 12 agonizing labours of Hercules. Or was it Hercule? Either way, Agatha would be aghast.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.