Review: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ is a first class ride with coach-level treats

This image released by Twentieth Century Fox shows Daisy Ridley in a scene from, "Murder on the Orient Express." (Nicola Dove/Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

This image released by Twentieth Century Fox shows Daisy Ridley in a scene from, "Murder on the Orient Express." (Nicola Dove/Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

Mystery unfolds as the Orient Express train finds itself with a dead man, and therefore a murderer, aboard. Luckily, the world’s greatest detective, Hercule Poirot, is on the case. But, the catch is that any of those passengers could well be the murderer. Hence, “Murder on the Orient Express” is a fun mystery ride that, although greatly entertaining, hinders its ability to fully awe due to, ironically, its faithfulness to the source material’s medium.

The film promises a mystery and it does just that with the help of an amazing protagonist. From beginning to end “Murder on the Orient Express” astonishes primarily because of the magnificent Hercule Poirot (played exquisitely by the film’s director, Kenneth Branagh). Hercule adds to the nature of the mysterious circumstances by his impeccable personality. He possesses a serious demeanor, but with a sprinkle of joyous enthusiasm that makes it impossible not to smile or laugh when the sophisticated detective unleashes his quips.

Hercule is the type of guy whose intellectual mind doesn’t contaminate his heart with feelings of superiority. He handles himself majestically and treats others with admirable respect. But Hercule’s most defining attribute is definitely his marvelous mustache, groomed to excellence by Hercule himself. Indeed, Hercule is the heart of the film and by the end, he’ll feel like someone you’ve already met; a long-gone friend who’s returned. Without him, “Murder on the Orient Express” is just another movie going along Hollywood’s conveyer belt of forgettable films.

”Murder on the Orient Express” doesn’t lack quality in its form. It has a decorated ensemble cast with names like Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz and Daisy Ridley, to name a few. The screenplay is even written by Michael Green, who co-wrote perhaps the best film of the year in “Blade Runner 2049.” But even with these high-end personalities behind the film, “Murder on the Orient Express” is a movie with no replay value. And this is because the film uncovers like reading a book (new details come forth even by the end of the narrative). Unfortunately, sometimes this doesn’t translate well to the realm of movies.

There are crucial details pertaining to the mystery that only present themselves in the third act of the film. These details hold no connection to what’s already happened in the first and second act, and ultimately, these new facts feel like there was a prequel movie we all should’ve seen before watching “Murder on the Orient Express.”

By the end, the mystery is solved, but how it was solved fails to incite any form of curiosity in seeing the film again. In other words, there are no clues scattered throughout the course of the film that ties back to the end, and when it comes to mystery movies, that is what’s important. Many of the greatest mystery films stand the test of time because there’s a reason to go back within the mystery, making every new viewing an even better experience. “Murder on the Orient Express” fails in doing just that.

There is a great film in “Murder on the Orient Express,” but that’s just in its first viewing. The mystery is an interesting one and I wouldn’t pick any other detective to solve it than Hercule Poirot (sorry, Batman). What the film lacks in its narrative, it substantiates in Kenneth Branagh’s wonderful performance as Hercule. For him alone “Murder on the Orient Express” is a must-watch. And though the film has its problems, here’s to hoping we see Hercule Poirot again.

Rating: 4/5


Carlos Rosario Gonzalez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at carlos.rosario_gonzales@uconn.edu.