This Is My Stop - Murder On The Orient Express
Hollywood has an obsession with its greatest stuff. In its best form, this means drawing from the past to inform the future--imbuing the latest films with elements of classic cinema. In its worst form, this means remaking classics and retelling stories that have been told well before. Why they don’t instead focus on remaking the films that misfired the first time is beyond me. But here we are with yet another remake of yet another classic. This time, it is a redo of the 1974 adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel by the same name. It is a Kenneth Branagh vanity project that just barely justifies its own existence. Updated racial politics and slick aesthetics keep it on the rails, but you would be hard pressed to find something to really love about it.
The film opens with world-renowned Hercule Poirot (played by Kenneth Branagh) solving a mystery in an exotic location. Early on, you get the sense that this is what he does all day. He is three steps ahead of hapless wrongdoers and gets a certain thrill out of outsmarting those who think they have things figured out.
After solving that mystery, he winds up headed home on the Orient Express, a train filled with well-to-do people headed their separate ways. When he boards the train, a businessman (played by Johnny Depp) asks Poirot to serve as his bodyguard during the train ride. Poirot declines and when the businessman winds up dead, Poirot must piece together clues and interview the other passengers to figure out who the murderer might be.
Now, I love a murder mystery. Piecing together clues as they point to any and everyone. Ups and downs and twists and turns and a race to see if you can figure it out faster than the detective. But no such opportunity here. Poirot's observations are almost superhuman and the audience never really gets the chance to 'play along' in the fullest sense. The result is a movie with a lot of fat and a lot of sequences that felt like diversions instead of genuine threads in a taut murder mystery.
The one saving grace for the film is this cast. It's not that anyone is doing career work here, but there is so much star-power that it's at least fun to see the wattage. Depp, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Defoe, Daisy Ridley and Hamilton alum Leslie Odom, Jr. The amount of Oscars and Tonys on that train is impressive to say the least. But it all goes to waste. No one's performance really stands out and the final product lands with a dull thud.
The movie isn't a disaster; it just isn't all that special. Beyond Poirot's comical mustache, there is nothing here anyone is going to remember. Near the end, someone thought it was a good idea to foist in some half-hearted message about justice or something and I was just ready for it to be over. When you consider that Josh Gad was probably about 11% of the movie, it feels like they should have easily been able to get this done in under 100 mins with just a few more cuts. Instead, Branagh though all these indulgences should remain in and the end result is a film that is much more train ride than roller coaster.
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