Sometimes, old little mystery book “who-dun-it” novels of escapisms should remain exactly that. As novels. I have not cared for the two (one movie, one television movie) iterations of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS before this one, and guess what? I didn’t care for this one either. But be warned. I have read the novel. Love the novel. Love Agatha Christie. Love both this and And Then There Were None. There is something delightful about reading a murder investigation in a book that doesn’t translate so well on screen. You get inside the characters/investigators head and are holding their hands into that great journey. In a movie, they are just speaking and telling you what is going on. Not as engaging. I know inner dialogue in films is usually considered taboo now but I think something like that could’ve made this movie a little better. I don’t know. Except for the last 20 minutes of the film, I didn’t care for this iteration of the classic novel, and will probably not be taking changes on it (or if they do the God awful idea of turning And Then There Were None into a remake) in the future.
The last 20 minutes, where you know all loose ends are tied up and the killer is revealed, is spectacular. Especially the musical score. The acting, direction, cinematography, all incredible. The perfect combination of showing and telling that any iteration of the novel has done. Why couldn’t the other hour and a half been like that as well? The other hour and a half is just two people sitting (with one tiny action beat) talking and telling the audience who these people are and what they have done. I think the movie could’ve benefited with more flashbacks instead of just staring at Kenneth Branagh mustache moving. I’ve said in reviews before, it is all about showing, not just telling the audience, and if you can get that perfect match made in heaven between the two, you’ve mastered the technique. And while the last 20 minutes are beautiful, the rest completely drags and is quite boring, a good lesson in what just telling does to a motion picture.
The story, without giving anything away, is that one passenger on a train is brutally stabbed 12 times during the night. The train is then caught from getting into a tunnel by an avalanche, and a quick witted and OCD investigator, Hercule Poirot, has to solve who did it, and hopefully before they are rescued and the train hits the next station. That’s all I’ll give away because the ending is quite unique and endearing if you haven’t read the novel. At least the movie keeps all the cards in the same deck. It’s just that the deck was scattered into a 52 pick up game, and was just laid to waste on the floor until someone started to pick the cards up at the end of the movie.
The marketing for this movie is also a bit misleading even though I’ve read the novel and know that it was just the quick cutting techniques of a trailer maker. Be warned, this is not an action movie, there is a tiny action beat near the middle of the film, but that is it, it is mostly investigation. And while the novel makes the investigation fun, endearing, and makes you think critically, here, it is just someone talking to you on the Discovery channel, but without pictures and films of moving animals to back it up. The acting is great, the focus of it being on Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Phiffer, and Daisy Ridley. Ridley again shows that after Star Wars, she is going to be a force to be reckoned with…in better movies that this. It’s Branagh and Phiffer that steal the show, and Branagh is the best Poirot I’ve seen thus far, I just wish it was in a better film.
So, being a fan of the novel, I didn’t like the movie. If you haven’t read it though? I don’t know how you’ll feel. I do suggest that if you have no idea what happens you pick up a book and entertain your mind rather than this be the first iteration of the story that you actually see. Would it hurt you to pick up a book? In this culture? Probably. But I tell you it is worth it. The novel is a masterpiece of mystery fiction. This movie is not even close. In fact, it never moves at all, the engine is running, but it never leaves the station.