Murder on the Orient Express features a fantastic cast but knowledge of the source material keeps thus murder mystery from being tense.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Summary: A lavish train ride unfolds into a stylish & suspenseful mystery. From the novel by Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express tells of thirteen stranded strangers & one man's race to solve the puzzle before the murderer strikes again.
The mystery movie is something that has fallen to the wayside in recent years. It is still a classic genre though, and everything old is new again, so it was only a matter of time before this genre came back too. Murder on the Orient Express is a classic murder mystery novel by Agatha Christie that has had a few adaptations in the past. The fact that the book is a classic and there have been adaptations in the past might be one of the key problems with this new adaptation. A mystery really only works the first time, because after you know the answer all of the fun of the genre goes away. It was knowledge of the source material that kept this version of Murder on the Orient Express from being as good as it should have been.
That being said if you're unfamiliar with the source material there is a very good chance you'll enjoy this movie a lot. There is an absolutely stellar cast at work here and they all put in great performances. They're all a bit arch and one note but that's the point of them. Director Kenneth Branaugh knows how to shoot this kind of high drama so it works. It feels very much like a stage production in the way everyone moves and speaks. It's entertaining to watch as we watch Branagh, as Hercule Poirot, unravel a case in front of us.
The mystery itself is interesting and it's fun to watch all of threads slowly start to come apart. Christie is not a writer that people read much while they're in high school anymore. There is likely a decent to large group of people out there who don't know how this movie ends. Those are the people that should go see it, they are the ones who will likely leave a little in love with the story and the cast, but those of us that have read the book and know how it ends? It's just a very good adaption of a book written by someone who is considered to be one of the best mystery writers. Her views on justice and people don't really hold up in the modern day, Christie saw it all as very black and white whereas we exist in a world of moral gray areas, but it's not enough to ruin the movie as a whole.
Murder on the Orient Express has nothing wrong with it. It's a very good movie with a great cast that is well directed. However, with source material as famous as this and with a genre based on twists and turns it's hard to build suspense when one knows the ending.