I’m a fan of a good self-indulgent, high-brow, ostentatious film every now and then — if it’s actually good of course. The thing is, making a really pretentious movie isn’t in itself a bad thing to do. There are plenty of pretentious movies that are actually really good, and I’m never going to knock a director for wanting to really up the ante with cinematography. But at the end of the day, the definition of pretentious also easily doubles as a single line review of this film: Something which attempts to impress by acting and believing itself to be of a higher quality, but ultimately falls short of actual prestige.
When I first heard that they were doing an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famed murder mystery novel, I distinctly remember thinking “Why?! Everyone knows how it ends!” I was immediately intrigued by how the director was going to present this particular story in a new and interesting way. When I saw the posters and trailer, I knew immediately that the catch of the film was going to be its visuals. The visuals in this film are wildly fun to look at, and though much of the scenery is done with CGI, it’s very impressive. This is quality cinematography but can it carry the story?
Director and lead actor Kenneth Branagh apparently didn’t think so, because after deciding how over-the-top he wanted his film (and character) to look, he recruited a cast of famous others to do the job. Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Penelope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, and a whole bunch more celebrities hopped aboard Branagh’s master production. And major credit to all of the acting talent — there was not a single poor performance. Unfortunately, there were so many characters that each wonderful performance felt rushed and underappreciated. Except, of course, for Branagh’s own, which stole the show in this film. Don’t get me wrong, Branagh’s role as great detective Hercule Poirot was fun to watch because he balances brilliant eccentricity with humbling innocence so expertly, but I couldn’t help feeling that for all the great actors that are in this film, we only got the tip of the iceberg from each of them.
But anyways, how did these fine actors manage this great murder mystery? …. Enh. They did ok. The script was interesting enough but really anticlimactic on the whole. I felt that this movie had a big pacing problem, in the fact that I could never really tell when it was supposed to feel the most suspenseful. They added a couple of extra “twists & turns” to Christie’s original story to give it that cinematic zest, except like everything they didn’t quite manage “twists & turns”. They were more like… slight jarring moments that died quickly and a handful of lackluster spins.
I wouldn’t say this was a bad movie. It was incredibly average. Not worth the $13 I paid at the theater, but one I would definetely consider picking up at Redbox for a night in. That should tell you all you need to know about the quality of this film. It’s flashy and in your face and hopes to distract its unsteady plot with other fancy features. But that seems to be a film category all its own, and I would put it far above some of the other recent additions to that pile cough cough PASSENGERS cough cough.
And PS. They’ve already announced a sequel — Death on the Nile
Overall Score — 7/10.
Tell Us: Did you see Murder on the Orient Express? What would you rate it?