What a Ride: “Murder on the Orient Express”

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Rated: PG-13

2017 ‧ Drama/Suspense/Thriller ‧ 1h 54m

Release date: November 12, 2017 (USA)
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Adapted from: Agatha Christie’s book,  Murder on the Orient Express 
Screenplay: Michael Green (Blade Runner (2049), American Gods, Logan, Alien: Covenant

                                                                                     

Watch the trailer now… or later it will be here!

 

What’s it About?

“While balance is comforting and good is best; imbalance is reality and sometimes you can’t tell the difference.”

Kenneth Branagh brings to life detective extraordinaire, Hercule Poirot, and bad boy (man) Johnny Depp is Mr. Ratchett in this thriller full of twists and turns that only Agatha Christie could pen.  This is a classic ‘whodunit’ with interesting characters, plenty of motives, and a great cast including Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe and Judi Dench.

Our Review:

I must admit, I have never seen Sidney Lumet’s version of this film and so I went into the movie theater (with my daughter and junior reviewer, Noah) with my eyes wide shut about the plot and storyline.  The opening scenes did nothing to prepare me for the story and I was pleasantly surprised by the whole film.

According to Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat! there are several genres into which every screenplay is categorized.  I believe that Murder on the Orient Express  can best be described as a Whydunit story.  The sad part about a good suspense story is we really want to no more about the why than the who.  Okay, so let’s say the Butler did do it– why?  Didn’t he get paid last week?  As a Christian I believe in the depravity of man.  Let’s face it we can do some pretty ratchet stuff.  The Whydunit  movie has as it’s goal something quite different from most genres.  Although this film does show how our hero changes and why, it is more focused on teaching us something about human nature that we didn’t know. 

It is hard to discuss this film without giving away too much of the story, especially if you’ve not seen the film.  Kenneth Branagh should be congratulated on delivering as a hero we enjoy watching and walking through life with.  He is quirky, candid and exacting but very likeable in his very unique (and confident) way.  Think Inspector Cousteau (The Pink Panther) meets Sherlock Holmes on his straight days.

Classic Whydunit films (Chinatown, JFK, Citizen Kane) work because even though they ask you to take a walk on the dark side, they are thoughtfully provocative, requiring that we, the audience, work through the act of figuring out the Why of the Who! This is an interactive ride.

What we Liked/Disliked:

This film had a great cast.  I felt like I was able to get a great grasp on each of the character’s motivations and histories.  The writing was succinct yet informative.  In a film that could have easily been bogged down by needless dialogue, the filmmakers were careful to show more than tell.  I loved the cast in this film, they were all solid hitters.

We were very impressed by the filming. I have to give a nod to the Director of Photography/Cinematographer, Haris Zambarloukos,  and the visual effects team.  The film is beautifully shot and I loved the classic feel.  I am an Alfred Hitchcock super-fan and I felt some of his influence in the film.  The locations, the snow, the train itself were all aesthetically pleasing. Great job here.

The movie is full of messages about the ripple effect of choices we make every day.  As we, the audience, meet this cast of broken individuals we understand more why each is who they are and how they became that way.  The message of the film is powerful and even if you have seen the other film, it is worth a look just to see where you are on matters of justice, revenge, mercy, forgiveness and a plethora of other feelings about subjects like loss, cause and effect, and even murder.

The movie is a tad bit longer than perhaps it needed to be and there was one scene in particular (when the murder was shown) that was a bit macabre and disconcerting.  I mean it went all slasher on us!  Yikes. As a Christian I did not like the use of God’s name in vain (at least twice), but there was no nudity and very little violence.

Engine, engine number 9, headed down Chicago line, if the train should jump the track would you want your money back?  Yes? No? Maybe so?

I guess you can tell, I’m gonna give a big ‘No’ and a hearty congratulations to Branagh.  I enjoyed the film because it was engaging.  Keep the change.

Our Rating: Reached the destination

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