"Murder on the Orient Express" loses steam as it goes along


Yes, I saw Kenneth Branagh's misbegotten adaptation of Agatha Christie's brilliant "Murder on the Orient Express." It wasn't meaty enough, didn't feel like a full-course meal, instead it was a half-baked affair that has spurts of brilliant scattered over a dull, monotonous narrative. The full review can be read here on The Film Stage.

A few excerpts:

"While Branagh and the cast at his disposal keep the proceedings engaging and spontaneous as they could be for the first hour, the second hour is a different story as a multitude of heavy-handed reveals within a messy structure consistently threaten to derail the initial pleasures. Unlike the BBC’s Sherlock, Branagh’s classical style begins to dull; even the finding of an important clue feels unexciting. At no point are we ever intrigued as to who the killer is which is an issue for a two-hour murder mystery. Suffice to say, this all leads to muddled structural decisions and an underwhelming finale which has us playing catch-up to Poirot instead of discovering the reveals alongside him."
"When it comes to a murder-mystery, one would expect tense atmosphere with a hint of dreadful paranoia lurking in every frame. Branagh misses this tension with a too-polite approach, over-stuffed with camaraderie and strenuous likability. The claustrophobia of the source material is gone, replaced with Branagh’s interest in shots that depict, for example, the majesty of the snow post-avalanche, instead of Christie’s descriptions of the harsh conditions entrapping the characters on the train. Branagh—the actor—dominates the film, with everyone else in supporting roles. Meanwhile Branagh—the director—relies on a too-colorful style and atmosphere, shooting himself in the foot by cutting short the darkness that loomed in Christie’s original vision."