City Press review: The Orient Express derails

City Press movie review

Movie: Murder on the Orient Express

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench

Rating: 2/5

Beautiful people clad in lavish costumes, romantic cinematography and a whodunit roundabout that takes place in a confined space. These are the only reasons you should see Murder on the Orient Express. Other than that, the point of watching this film is a bit like waiting for a train at Cape Town station: You buy the ticket, but you’re never sure it will arrive.

I’m not a fan of self-direction (Kenneth Branagh directs and plays lead character Hercule Poirot), purely because the result often turns out like the one we find ourselves with here – a director who is too in love with his own performance.

Agatha Christie’s peculiar and endearing Belgian detective Poirot translates as annoying and falls flat because he drips with vanity and Branagh gifted himself too much screen time. Other cast members ultimately become cameos instead of developed characters – a waste of talent really.

The plot follows 13 passengers who are apparent strangers aboard a train in 1934. They share a carriage on a trip from Istanbul to Calais. A snowdrift blocks the tracks and the passengers are trapped. Among them is a male murder victim found in his cabin with 12 stab wounds. Enter mystery solver, in this case master of self-love, Poirot.


Christie’s plot is standard murder-mystery stuff, but outstanding in its ability to engage the reader. The movie does little to absorb us in the same way. A convoluted and dense mystery requires the characters to entrance the viewer from beginning to end. This story line falls off the tracks a bit.

The outstanding cast featuring headliners like Judi Dench, Penélope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Johnny Depp gives us false hope in the way of saving the film. But a star-studded cast does not good cinema make.

In the words of Poirot himself: “I can only see the world as it should be. And when it is not, imperfection stands out like the nose on a face.”

Murder on the Orient Express is an obvious imperfection on the nose of some great source material.

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