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Murder on the Orient Express (5/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 114 minutes


I was looking forward to this film, and that can often be the kiss of death. There are many films that I can see over and over and over again, and enjoy just as much, if not more, than the first time I saw it or them. Examples are Casablanca (1942), A Few Good Men (1992), and The Caine Mutiny (1954). There are many more, but the point is that the movies are so good that the fact that I know the stories backward and forward does not diminish my pleasure of watching them.

Tonight proved conclusively that author Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express is not one of them, even though it is a remake. I have not only seen the others, but I read the book many, many years ago. Frankly, I don’t know why they keep remaking it.

While the production values are very good, and while it has a cast of A-listers like Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Penélope Cruz, I found it excruciating to sit through. For one thing, the exceptional cast performs mostly little more than cameos because it is a star turn for director Kenneth Branagh (script by Michael Green) who plays Agatha Christie’s famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot.

Unfortunately, Branagh suffers the same fate as those actors who have taken on the role of James Bond, who forever are compared unfavorably with Sean Connery. Poirot’s role was so expertly played in the past by Peter Ustinov and David Suchet that Branagh’s interpretation falls flat. Since he is in almost every scene it made the movie even less enjoyable for me than it could have been if I had seen someone give a smashing performance.

I suppose that somewhere in this favored land where the sun is shining bright, where the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere children laugh there is someone who does not know the story of “Murder on the Orient Express.” For them, this movie could possibly be rated as high as 8/10. But if you know the story and you have seen Ustinov or Suchet play the role of Christie’s detective with the little gray cells, this movie could be as tedious for you as it was for me.