Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ remains a mystery

By Bray Snyder, Sports Editor

“Murder on the Orient Express” was one of those movies that I saw commercials for, but didn’t ever have enough context to want to see immediately. After hearing mixed reviews, I decided that I wanted to go see the classic who-dun-it murder on-screen. Now this will be spoiler-free, but I admit that I haven’t read the book, so I won’t talk about how the two compared.

First, we should talk about the casting. Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Sean Connery are just a few of the names to top the list. What a murder mystery always needs is a star-studded cast of at least somewhat familiar faces to latch onto. With faces that are easily recognizable, but not distracting, the viewer easily goes with the flow of the story. One of my biggest complaints about recent movies such as “Snowman” and “Rogue One” is the lack of character name reinforcement. I am consciously taken out of the movie when I can’t remember what characters are named. This movie offered nearly 20 characters who were constantly in the story, yet I wasn’t taken out of the film. The easiest to remember is director and lead Kenneth Branagh (Harry Potter as Gilderoy Lockhart, Dunkirk as Commander Bolton) who sold the first half of the film very well for me. As a director, his use of long tracking or panning shots through windows sold the murder mystery feel for me. We see all of the faces in the train car obscured by slanted glass and doors.

This brings us next to the plot. Without any spoilers, this was a fun 2-hour movie to sit through. The film is set up well, introducing us to all of our characters before we even hear about the train. This only helps us to be familiar with faces. The setup, and then the murder, provide tension as you try to scour the screen for clues. I told myself that I would figure it out from the beginning (I didn’t). Then, we get to see Branagh as idealist Detective Poirot go to work. And sadly, this is where the movie started to get boring for me. Not too much, but enough to take me out of the film. You need patience to watch this movie, but the back half of the film is much more drawn out than personally preferred. We are thrown off the trail once or twice, and by then we are ready for the reveal. I give props to Branagh for choosing to use black and white flashbacks throughout the film, which helps cement the time period in the viewer’s head while providing stark contrast between the present and the past. But it falls short for me. I’m past ready to know who it is. The viewer realizes that there are only one or two clues to allude to the reveal. And even then, the reveal is not the climax. The climax comes minutes after.

Then, it appears Branagh, as self-interested as Professor Lockhart to Harry Potter and friends, gives himself the final five minutes of screen time. By then, I’m tired of his pompous and ridiculous mustache, to the point that I wonder how his makeup team gave him the OK on his look. The movie does end with a gorgeous set piece that left me wondering how it was filmed. It looked like a simple pull-out shot that follows Branagh out of the train, towards the train station, to his next taxi, then pulling all the way out to show us the Express leaving into a snowy sunset.

But with the animation as heavy (and bad) as it was for the Express every time it was on screen, it remains, like the story, a mystery.

[needs rating]

Bray Snyder is a sophomore broadcasting major. This reviews reflects the opinion of the author only.

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