Review Roundup: Did Kenneth Branagh's MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS Thrill the Critics?
Everyone has something to hide. Every one of them is a suspect! 20th Century FOX has shared new images from MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, hitting theaters nationwide on November 10th. The film stars Broadway's Josh Gad (BOOK OF MORMON) and Leslie Odom Jr. (HAMILTON), along with Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley .
From the novel by best-selling author Agatha Christie, "Murder on the Orient Express" tells the tale of strangers stranded on a train, where everyone's a suspect and clues are everywhere. Kenneth Branagh directs.
What starts out as a lavish train ride through Europe quickly unfolds into one of the most stylish, suspenseful and thrilling mysteries ever told. From the novel by best-selling author Agatha Christie, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS tells the tale of thirteen strangers stranded on a train, where everyone's a suspect. One man must race against time to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.
Let's see what the critics have to say about the star-studded film adaptation.
Glenn Kenny, New York Times: "In this latest version, Kenneth Branagh, who also directs (from a script by Michael Green), gives us a Poirot who's fussy but not too fussy, and rather crisp in his English-language diction. Most radically, this is a Poirot with heart. This interpretation is a dumb idea, but Mr. Branagh, an actor of prodigious skills, can at least pull this one half off. It's not the only dumb idea in this film, which nevertheless bounces along in a way that's sometimes almost entertaining...Johnny Depp, who is known to make some eccentric choices in crafting his characters, does not (necessarily) disappoint in the role of the murder victim, Edward Ratchett. Imbuing that unsavory character with the dopiest of gangster mannerisms, Mr. Depp may remind you of Matt LeBlanc's "Friends" character, Joey Tribbiani. It's as if Joey, that lovable bad actor, is trying to make the most of his first big break in the movies."
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: "When the biggest difference between the new version of Agatha Christie's MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS and its 43-year-old predecessor is arguably the size of the respective Hercule Poirot's moustaches, one has to wonder as to the pressing need for a remake. All the same, director-star Kenneth Branagh has delivered a version of Agatha Christie's 1934 murder-on-a-train mystery gem that may not be as starry but is snappier than the highly successful 1974 outing. Given the confined nature of the material as well as its period-specific aspects, this is a yarn that does not exactly invite radical reinterpretation. As such, its appeal is confined to the traditional niceties of being a clever tale well told, with colorful characters that are fun to watch being made to squirm by the inimitable Belgian detective. Moderate box-office results would appear to be in store for this FOX release that chugs out on Nov. 10."
Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly: "The resolution of the movie's central mystery is almost endearingly corny, less shocking twist than slow dinner-theater twirl. But Branagh executes his double duties with a gratifyingly light touch, tweaking the story's more mothballed elements without burying it all in winky wham-bam modernity. His Poirot isn't just highbrow camp, he's a melancholy soul with a strict moral code. And his SUPERHUMAN intuition serves him well; in the final scenes, he may just smell a sequel. B+"
Peter Debruge, Variety: "For those who know the outcome of MURDER going in, the question isn't so much whodunit as how Branagh will keep audiences guessing, and though he succeeds in creating the most memorable incarnation of Poirot ever seen on-screen (upstaging even Johnny Depp's competing cameo), the movie is a failure overall, juggling too many characters to keep straight, and botching the last act so badly that those who go in blind may well walk out not having understood its infamous twist ending."
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: "If you're read Dame Agatha's novel or have seen the other film versions, you know what the big reveal is. All that's left is to watch Branagh take you down the same path and see if anything looks different after a fresh coat of 65mm paint. Not much, sad to say. Branagh - when he's not tending to that thing on his face - spends a lot of time polishing his own performance, but Poroit is (or should be) more than a collection of mannerisms. In his all-stops-out scene near end, the detective gives his stache a twirl, lines up the prime suspects outside in the snow, makes a show of declaring who's guilty and acts up a storm. But the impact is muffled. Murder on the Orient Express offers audiences a deluxe journey to the past, but this pokey train goes off the rails about the time all the characters, except for Poirot, cease to matter."
Brian Truitt, USA Today: "There's a throwback vibe for sure, mainly to the celebrity-packed films of yesteryear like It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Cannonball Run and the superior 1974 Orient Express adaptation (with Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman and more). With all its overly dramatic head turns and frowny faces, the new Murder largely wastes its extremely impressive cast: At least Depp makes the most of his menacing turn as a smarmy crook, Pfeiffer and Gad chew up some scenery, and Lucy Boynton is strong in limited action as a drug-addled countess."
Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press: "Unfortunately, the movie loses its steam right when the intrigue is supposed to be taking over. The discovery process isn't nearly as fun or engaging as it should be, and despite the energetic start, the film becomes a bit of a slog waiting for the big answer (for those who already know it, either from the source material, Sidney Lumet's 1974 film or any of the other adaptations, this might be even more tedious). Branagh certainly steals scenes as Poirot, but the director might have taken some more time to ensure that all of his characters were given as loving a treatment as his own, or the setting, which is truly quite splendid to behold and even makes up for some of the deficiencies of the storytelling. As odd as it might sound, it is somewhat refreshing to sit in a theater and watch a grand scale production that's not set in space or predetermined by the pages in a comic book. Then it goes and mucks it all up by leaving the door conspicuously open for a sequel."