Murder on the Orient Express: The Greatest Disappointment and the Worst Cinematic Experience of the Year

Kenneth Branagh stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Murder on the Orient Express.”

By: Tristin Brown

I would love nothing more than to forget the fact that this film ever made it to theatres (or to have been hit by a bus on my way to the theatre to see it), but I felt like it would be counterproductive to keep my opinions about this remake buried away. First off, not only was the new Murder on the Orient Express remake unnecessary, but it just wasn’t good…at all.

Last year, my good friend Tam showed me a trailer for an upcoming murder-mystery film with an “All-Star Cast.” Although I could’ve sworn it was another Clue movie, it turned out to be Murder on the Orient Express. I must’ve ignored the fact that Imagine Dragon’s “Believer” played in the trailer, because for some crazy reason I thought it looked pretty good. You know when you see a trailer for a film you really want to see, and you become completely obsessed with it? That was me. I did my homework by reading the novel and watching the original remake of the film. Agatha Christie’s novel (by the same name) was nothing below brilliant. A classic detective novel from the 1930’s, it launched the “Who Done It?” phenomenon. Sidney Lumet’s 1974 version of the film now stands as one of my favorite classics. I couldn’t have been more excited.


As soon as I read “Murder on the Orient Express: Now Playing” at the Regal downtown, I called my friends up and we literally ran there. The show was sold out so we waited for the next showtime. Alas, the moment I’ve waited months on end for was here, and I was finally able to watch the film I highly anticipated.

Maybe the film wasn’t the worst one ever made in Hollywood history and it’s just my harsh opinion; I can only see the movie as it should have been. Wait. Actually, I take that back; I can say generously that it was terrible. Everything about this adaptation was unnecessary, wrong, overdone, and discomforting.  As a matter of fact, the best decision made in the production was to kill off Johnny Depp in the first fifteen minutes. However, that’s besides the point, so let’s start with Branagh.

Director Kenneth Branagh felt inclined to cast himself as Hercule Poirot. I wasn’t completely against the idea at first, but he tried too hard to make his character a badass. This Poirot was a Sherlock Holmes-like detective instead of the quirky, egg-shaped man Christie originally wrote. His mustache was pretty ridiculous and the backstory added for his character was even more so. Branagh accorded himself more screen time than all of his illustrious co-stars combined, and I don’t understand why nobody stopped him. The world watched in anticipation as world-renowned stars piled into the C.G.I train, including Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leslie Odom Jr., and Willem Dafoe. Perhaps the casting directors didn’t realize that sometimes, too many good things could be a bad combination. The expectations were too high, the performances were terrible (it’s no wonder Michelle Pfeiffer hasn’t been nominated for any awards in the past twenty years), and the audience never got the chance to sit down and become familiar with any of the reinvented classic characters. Besides that glorious moment, the entire film felt like a squishy, overdone vanity project.

Generally, the film was far more theatrical than Christie’s novel intended the story to be. It was shot in 65-millimeter format, which offers a particular kind of “big movie” resolution, and it wasn’t difficult to pinpoint what the film was failing to achieve: substance. The Orient Express and the entire surrounding environment was entirely C.G.I., and I had no choice but to cover my eyes during an avalanche scene; I felt like I was watching a cheaper version of The Polar Express. The film ended with Poirot lining up the passengers in the entrance to a tunnel where he explained his theory of exactly how the crime was committed, and even though this was a “big Hollywood moment,” did no one notice that any second a train could enter the tunnel and obliterate each and every one of his suspects?

I was glad to leave the theatre that day, and even more glad to hear that my friends hated the film as much as I did. A friend from home told me that he thought I’d love the movie, and I took offense. Times like this stand as needed reminders that not every movie will be perfect, and not every cinematic experience will leave me satisfied. I guess what I’m saying  is that if you’re interested in seeing the new Murder on the Orient Express, just don’t.


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