Cinematic Releases: Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Reviewed

Kenneth Branagh brings the classic Agatha Christie story back to cinemas for a  fall release that's marked by both great acting and an excellent look. However, something is decidedly off about this murder mystery aboard the famed train. The story is old. The plot points are familiar. The costumes are period perfect. And Branagh never takes the spotlight off himself for a mere second. 

As this is a story that most people already know, this new telling is a meandering theatrical set piece that gives Branagh room to further prove he's on top of his game even when the movie itself is an unnecessary cinematic entry that's trying to reintroduce the classic to a new batch of fans. While the director definitely is in lock step when commanding such high level actors as Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, and the wonderful Judi Dench, the idea of this remake is miscalculated by almost all those involved. Considering the source material has been used in film many times already, we could have used an update. Sadly, Murder on the Orient Express (2017) plays it way too safely. 

Featuring great performances all around, Murder on the Orient Express is a lesson in procured boredom that's only highlighted by the dedicated details of beautiful visual effects and Branagh's penchant for creating dynamic characters that seem to be rooted in reality. His role as Hercule Poirot is the absolute standout  and he interjects tons of humor and intelligence into a character that's seen many versions. Sadly though, Branagh hogs too much space. Instead of letting his other characters shine, his Poirot is always the focal point. With Depp coming off the Pirate ride for a little bit and bright stars like Daisy Ridley trying to shine outside the galaxy of Star Wars, this death trip fails to give them space to expand on their characters. 

This is a one way train to Hoth. 

When you have people like Michelle Pfeiffer making their career revival, this could have been a real stepping stone. Yet, with so many characters and so little scripting given to the support players, this is the Kenneth Branagh show, through and through. Again, the man is a revered actor of the highest caliber. It just gets tiring when so many other talents are not put to good use. 

Other than Branagh's humorous spin on the world's most famous detective, the Orient Express is loaded with picturesque scenery and some truly great CGI work. Also, the set design leaves nothing to be desired. All the time spent aboard the train is like a virtual time machine that brings us back to an era when things were much simpler, even when there's an epic mystery to solve. 

If you're looking for something fresh and new, this is not it. It's no different than the other versions that came before. It's just updated with better looking visuals and a super famous cast that delivers the goods when they're allowed to steal the spotlight for a few brief moments.