This review of Murder On The Orient Express was written by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg and published in the online edition of The Schoenberg Spotlight.
Murder On The Orient Express
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by Michael Green
Music by Patrick Doyle
Cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos
Edited by Mick Audsley
Release Date - 11/10/17 (United States)
On opening day, I watched the latest cinematic version of Murder On The Orient Express. I viewed the movie only to discover I liked the movie trailers better than the film itself. The only part of the picture I liked was the cinematic portrayal of the train in all its glory leaving Istanbul and speeding through the countryside. I asked myself why I was disappointed with the current motion picture.
First, I ruled out that occupations and nationalities of some of the characters had been changed to reflect the more multicultural nature of the audience. Leslie Odom's logical connection to the Armstrong family was well-explained although he is an African doctor who was not original to the novel.
Rather, there was a major change of the interplay between the characters. Hercule Poirot lacked the doctor and director of the Orient Express railroad company at his side where he had interplay with them as he investigated the case and explained some of his findings. As a result, there was no tension as he interrogated his suspects.
The 2017 celluloid had as almost a distinguished cast as the 1974 film but alas their performances were not as convincing as their counterparts a generation earlier. The 2017 crew gave wooden performances in which you did not quite believe who they were in contrast to the 1974 actors who really gave smashing performances. Although Kenneth Branagh's version of the Belgian detective spoke a more understandable English and had a better mustache in the 2017 picture. Albert Finney gave the more credible performance in 1974. I felt that the 1974 cast of well-known international actors such as Ingrid Bergman and Sean Connery were far more believable than the 2017 roster of superstars headed by Johnny Depp and Judi Dench. I also felt that Sidney Lumet in 1974 had a better version of how to do the novel as a movie than Kenneth Branagh did in 2017.
I am not going to give away the ending but the 2017 resolution was different than that in the 1974 movie and Agatha Christie's novel. The 2017 ending simply does not work. You don't feel justice has been served or that the moral sensibility of Hercule Poirot has been satisfied. Although Roslyn Sulcus in her New York Times review praised the epic, she did write that English critics felt quite different from their counterparts in America. "Despite its credentials - and impeccable styling - this Orient Express never gets up a head of steam," Robbie Collin wrote in The Telegraph, adding, "a shade more playfulness would have gone a long way."
In short, you believed you were traveling on the Orient Express in the 1974 movie but not in the 2017 film. You simply aren't able to suspend your disbelief that you were on a train in the current version. In the end, I felt the 2017 Murder On The Orient Express was not worth watching.