In Hollywood's current obsession with pointless remakes and adaptations, the latest off the conveyor belt is a remake of 1974's Murder on the Orient Express - a film that was already based on Agatha Christie's novel of the same name. But now we moustache whether it's great... or a hairy mess.

Honestly, the film is neither great, but nor is it a mess. Murder sits somewhere in the middle; this is a film that will keep you content for its duration, if perhaps absent of much of that depth that leaves these whodunnit flicks lingering on the tongue. Of course, the plot is quite famed for its iconic weight; as the title suggests, there has been a murder on a train and detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh, in the lead role as well as directing) must race to solve this mystery and find out who the culprit is before they strike again. The 13 suspects aboard the train range from the illustrious to the elusive, as these strangers are all thrown into the puzzle for Poirot to piece together and solve.
With a stacked cast such as the one that Murder boasts (to name drop every A-lister aboard Branagh's train would take some time - just look at the poster and you'll get the idea), fine performances are all but guaranteed. And, thankfully, everyone excels in their roles. Screen-time is perhaps limited for each star, given that there are so many here, but this cast all do a convincing job in their respective roles when they do appear. Johnny Depp as our resident gangster, the deliciously mysterious Josh Gad, and the rather complex and complicated Michelle Pfeiffer are amongst the standouts but it's Branagh, complete with the ludicrous moustache and equally larger-than-life performance, that excels as Poirot, clearly relishing in the buoyancy of such a character. Sadly, it's just a shame that everyone else feels so underused... wasted, even. And with so many characters crammed in here, we never get time to really develop anyone and they all feel rather thin as a result.

Branagh, however, also in the director's chair, has created something that will widen the eyes in its beauty; if one thing is certain, it's that this film is gorgeous. The director is really in his element in the old-school, 1934 setting here; the set designs and costume are lavish and classy. Branagh revels in the glam and fashion of the era and, visually, has created something as elegant and attractive as the lush lot of aristocrats aboard the train. The cinematography is crisp and beautiful, and there's a nice polish to all of the shots. In 70mm too, this film is quite the aesthetic charmer on the eyes and it's easy to immerse into the gorgeous, lush era that has been so superbly recaptured here. It's just a shame that the film isn't quite as slick in its story and becomes too much of a mess on the storytelling front causing it to fall apart.
The writing of Murder on the Orient Express all over the place. The mystery unfolds in quite a tedious, convoluted manner and it becomes a little frustrating trying to follow along. But this doesn't really work in the film's favour and rather than come off as the intended "oh, who did it, I want to know", it plays off more like a "what is going on, this film is stupid" kind of way. It's not so much a lack of trying in which this film falters, far from it; this film tries very hard to impress, but its shortcomings are perhaps that, in trying to be so clever and smart, the film loses its footing and slips up on just telling a good story. There is a lack of any tension too; the whodunnit plays out in a way that makes it rather predictable and bland, sucking out any possible mystery and tension. It's not that this film is bad. No. It's certainly competent and an enjoyable enough couple of hours to divulge your attention, but it just doesn't quite stick the landing and fails to really be too memorable once the credits roll. At least it'll shave a few hours off your day if you're bored. Get it? Shave? Because moustache? Because Poirot... Don't lie, you love the puns.

Murder on the Orient Express is a competent whodunnit but one that fails to remain memorable. Even Kenneth Branagh's moustache can't save this.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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