I started taking a notebook with me to press screenings to write down my random thoughts while watching in real time. This isn’t out of the ordinary, but I wanted to keep a straight play-by-play from start to finish with Murder On The Orient Express. Some thoughts are consistent, some are random, but just go with it.
1. Black law enforcement officer standing guard at the Wailing Wall in Israel in 1934? Okay.
One of the opening scenes has a Black British man standing guard at the wailing wall. I am trying, but this is hard to accept. It took me out of the film for a bit. Not that I expected this movie to be the pillar of realism – but it’s still odd.
2. Hercule Poirot’s mustache is impressive—until you see it up close
Kenneth Branagh’s mustache is so over the top but looks good – at first. When the camera one in you can tell extensions are plastered to his face, and it looks like hair plugs and grossly unnatural.
3. Branagh’s Belgian accent isn’t always audible.
I wonder if Belgian citizens would approve hearing him talk like this? I mean, he sound decent but I can’t always understand what he’s saying. Needs more diction and tonality.
4. Good to see Daisy Ridley outside of Star Wars.
I’m glad actress Daisy Ridley isn’t being typecast or falling victim to the “franchise curse” because of Star Wars. She has a deep, raspy, British accent that I love to hear. I would listen to her read the phone book.
5. I love what Michelle Pfeiffer is bringing to the table this year.
It is exciting that Michelle Pfeiffer is back in the game again. I loved her in mother! and at least she’s trying to deliver a decent performance here.
6. Willem Dafoe is everywhere.
I enjoy when he plays earnest, honest guys. I know Dafoe has a unique look but the man is talented.
7. No detail is spared in the pursuit of the authenticity of the time period.
In style and setting, the film is unmatched in its beauty and attention to detail. Branagh makes sure to have everything accurate for his re-imagining of the 1930s decadence. His eye for noticing even the most minute is admirable.
8. I’m annoyed at how the cast is chewing up the dialogue and scenery.
This may have fared better as a movie musical. That’s the only time I’ve seen acting so exaggerated. But it works for musicals; not for film. The acting is goofy at times, and irritating at other times. There’s no better way to take me out of the cinematic experience than by overacting.
9. Johnny Depp has lost his screen presence.
I wasn’t too thrilled with Johnny Depp being a part of this ensemble. His rugged good looks have given way to too much booze, cigarettes, and scandal. In addition to his phoned-in performance, he brings nothing to the table except to be a blemish on this production.
10. The casting of Leslie Odom Jr. and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo feels forced.
As a strong advocate for diversity among casting in film I can’t believe I am saying this. Branagh and writer Michael Green took a chance, but missed. After watching the movie, it’s clear neither is equipped to handle issues of race right now. The little racial/racist bits from characters were thrown around but never addressed. I’m left struggling with this question: is visibility worth more than proper representation? Because here, visibility isn’t enough.
11. I want to see a buddy cop movie with Josh Gad and Leslie Odom Jr.
There are some dynamic scenes between Josh Gad and Leslie Odom Jr. They have great chemistry, so I wouldn’t mind seeing the two of them in a buddy cop film like Kevin Hart and The Rock. (I know, super random).
12. The train only has five cars (that includes the conductor). How are all those people fitting in there?
It’s so tiny, how did they manage back then? It’s like a clown car.
13. The camera shots are wild and inconsistent.
Don’t get me wrong, the 65mm cinematography is a thing of wonder, but the camera framing and shots are all over the place. It gave me vertigo, and for this type of narrative, there is no reason for such erratic shooting. Sometimes it’s good to focus on just acting or just directing, and not both.
14. Where is this going?
Hurry and get there plot! I can tell the big reveal is being purposely dragged out–which most certainly means its going to be anti-climatic. There isn’t that slow burn feeling, it’s the “I’m bored to death” feeling.
15. The audience is indifferent.
The reveal has passed and the movie is over. I could hear the groans coming from the audience. They didn’t enjoy it, and neither did I. Between Johnny Depp and the dodgy, dull, plot, I don’t blame them for being irked.
The point of a remake is to add somethingnew to something old—you don’t get that from Murder On The Orient Express (2017). The performances are so stiff, no one character is interesting enough to care. Sidney Lumet’s 1974 version is just fine. Maybe if this was given a modern flair, the movie would be intriguing. It’s pretty to look at, but dead on the inside. Skip this remake and cherish the original.
Murder On The Orient Express is in theaters now and features an all-star cast including Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Dame Judi Dench, Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, and Penélope Cruz.