By Cheryl Bauder Staff Writer
Kenneth Branagh directed “Murder on the Orient Express,” based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name, which premiered in theaters last weekend.
The movie begins with the introduction of Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh). He boards a train as a last minute passenger along with thirteen other people, who we become acquainted with as they make their way to London.
One night, a passenger aboard the train is murdered in his cabin, meaning that one of the other passengers must have been the killer. Subsequently, in the midst of the hysteria, there is an avalanche and the train tracks become blocked by debris, bringing the journey to a halt and setting the perfect scene for an investigation, which Poirot offers to lead. The remainder of the film consists of him solving the case.
The opening of the film theatrically introduces each character in an extremely cheesy and noticeably calculated manner; the camera’s frame focuses on one individual moving through the train station and making convenient conversation about their travels, then pans over to the next and the next, like a spotlight. Given the opening corny vibe, any and all clues are blown completely out of proportion. For example, when Detective Poirot inspects the body, the cause of death lays bare all the answers within the first few minutes of the film.
Furthermore, Poirot uncovers connections to the victim, much as Sherlock Holmes would in a way that is overly dramatic and significant, again, giving away all the answers.
The movie held promise with its all-star cast—consisting of Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe and Judi Dench to name a few—but despite the actors’ performances, the opening number and general obviousness of the film instantly takes away its mystery. Mass murder mysteries like “Murder on the Orient Express” are entertaining, but they’ve been overused without update, which ultimately fails the concept of a mystery.
The genre needs a revision before attempting another Agatha Christie, or any similar, storyline.