Star-studded cast and beautiful cinematography keeps “Murder on the Orient Express” from derailing

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Hope Schreiner
CONTRIBUTOR

Based on the novel by Agatha Christie and following the 1974 remake of the same name, “Murder on the Orient Express” is a star-studded murder-mystery film about 13 strangers stranded on a derailed train. When one of the passengers is murdered, one man—world-famous detective Hercule Poirot—has to race against the clock to unmask the murderer.

Starting on a positive note, there are many things that made this an enjoyable and entertaining film. Hercule Poirot (played by Kenneth Branagh) is clever, charismatic and complex. While there are a few cringe-worthy comedic lines, for the most part, the detective is a unique and fresh character who brings a certain level of depth that the film would lack in his absence.

Another positive worth noting in this film is the cinematography, specifically the variety of wide and narrow shots. Since the characters are stuck on a train, most of the movie showsclose-up shots of faces and cramped overhead shots of scenes. These shots are contrasted with wide, swooping and magnificent shots of the landscape surrounding them. This adds another layer of complexity to this film that saves it from a completely poor rating.

All that being said, there were a few things this film was lacking as well.For one, the pacing felt a bit off. The storyline came to a grinding halt along with the train. Once the train was derailed, the plot seemed to trot along at a snail’s pace when it should have kept the momentum that the moving train provided. When dealing with a film that revolves around static scenery, the tension needs to drive the story in a way that makes it feel as if it is constantly moving, and this film was lacking that.

Along with that, there were a lot of unnecessary black and white scenes that easily could have been in color—or even simply a faded color—and achieved the same effect. If it was established by the speaker that the scene was going to be in the past, then there is no need for the overly-dramatic black and white feature.

The biggest issue, however, was with the major branching plot line. Without giving anything away, no emotional connection was made between the viewer and the characters. This made for a lackluster ending that could have used more punch in order to really hit home and pull at the viewer’s heartstrings.

Having never seen the original or read the novel, I can’t speak to how this film compares to either, but I can speak to how it functions as a remake in general. The question that has to be posed is this: Does the star power alone make this a worthy remake? I have to say no. While each actor did a fantastic job at bringing these characters to life in a fresh way with stunning cinematography, there isn’t much about this film that makes it unique or extraordinary.

While it is by no means a perfect film, “Murder on the Orient Express” is a fresh take on a classic and beloved murder-mystery film. There were a few stylistic choices that felt overdone and unnecessary, but the striking cinematography and stellar cast are what ultimately save this film from completely derailing.

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