It’s fair to say that Sir Kenneth Branagh’s latest offering, a big-screen adaptation of ‘Murder On The Orient Express’, is one of the year’s most talked-about films, thanks in no small part to its all-star cast.
As well as the esteemed thespian himself, the film includes star turns from an array of our absolute faves, including Dame Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman and Leslie Odom Jr (oh, and Johnny Depp’s in it).
Well, following Thursday’s world premiere, the critics have had their say, and they’re largely divided over the new film.
Here’s a cross-section of what the reviews are saying…
“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.”
The Guardian (2/5)
“When the murder is announced, the narrative clockwork is assumed to have been set in motion. And yet it is more like the victim’s pocket watch, which was smashed in the violence and ceased to work, thus giving Poirot a vital clue as to the time of death. ... This film never gets up a head of steam.”
“The film’s starry cast certainly matches Lumet’s in its lustre, though Depp feels too much the caricature gangster drawn from a pulp fiction, while the likes of Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Derek Jacobi, Willem Dafoe and Daisy Ridley (largely untested in a galaxy closer to home) get little opportunity to strut their stuff.
“They don’t make too many classic ‘whodunnits’ like this anymore. Given modern tastes, there is probably a reason for that.”
The Telegraph (3/5)
“Despite its credentials – and its impeccable styling – this Orient Express never gets up a head of steam. Its cast feel fenced in, somehow, like travellers used to the legroom of the premium coach consigned to cattle class. Since the plot has 12 suspects to juggle that’s partly a matter of logistics.
“But even in their showpiece one-on-one moments, something’s not there – you never feel as if you’re getting full-beam Pfeiffer or Maximum Dench, and a swishy roundhouse kick or two aside, Polunin’s Count Andrenyi doesn’t count for much.
“Where ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ succeeds is in Branagh’s fast pacing and the suspense he maintains throughout; each suspect is given screen time, and each has a plausible reason for murder, but none of them are lingered on for too long.
“The elephant on the screen, however, is Johnny Depp, whose performance isn’t strong enough to make you forget you’re watching Depp and therefore forget about his real life troubles. Although the debate over separating the individual from the performance has no clear answer, unfortunately here Depp is back to his usual tricks of overacting... and it’s a shame, as his Mr Ratchett is a piece of work and one of the more intriguing characters.”
Digital Spy (3/5)
“Not too long at under two hours, ’Murder on the Orient Express’ chugs along steadily toward the end-point revelation, which is unlikely to come as an enormous surprise to even the uninitiated, but delivers an added punch new to this version of the film. It’s highly entertaining escapism but it’s all rather forgettable once you disembark. And like Poirot’s moustache, it’s all a bit unnecessary.
“A multi-generational team sees crowd pleasers Daisy Ridley and Olivia Colman rubbing elbows with Hollywood stars such as Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz and Willem Dafoe. Dressed in richly designed period costumes, they are appropriately photographed on old school film stock not modern digital cameras.
“It’s questionable whether this will gain traction with a young audience who expect louder and flashier cinematic fireworks, or with an older audience who have possibly witnessed each of the previous three adaptations. But there’s no doubt Branagh’s express efficiently delivers.”
“Everyone looks fabulous – it’s like a walking, talking Vanity Fair portfolio – but, possibly knowingly, the film feels like a pop-up book, a feature-length OK Go music video… what we’re left with is a superficially sweet yet unfulfilling confection. They’re a dazzling bunch… But none of them get much to do other than endure Poirot’s interrogations.”
Evening Standard (2/5)
“Most of you know the twist that ranks this story as the second- cleverest, behind The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in the Christie canon. Those who don’t, if they stay awake long enough (triple espressos, pleasing you, with the popcorn) may find it one of two solaces.”
Irish Times (2/5)
“Branagh the director makes equally pointless efforts at visual innovation by establishing bravura shots for their own sake... None of this would matter if the mystery ticked along at the required pace. But key clues have been removed. Vital pointers have been taken down. The result is a broken mechanism whose wheezes and clanks offer only hints of Lumet’s delightful film.
“I am still wondering why you’ve gathered us all together.”
‘Murder On The Orient Express’ is in UK cinemas now.