Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, a film based on crime novelist Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel of the same name, premiered to mixed reviews from film critics.
The film is a classic whodunit, a cliché that was created by Agatha Christie herself, and follows thirteen strangers stranded on a train and Detective Hercule Poirot as he attempts to solve a murder before it is too late. But the star-studded cast, period costume and set designs, and tantalizing story fell short of hitting the nail on the head.
Gaining a 65% rating on the tomatometer, Murder on the Orient Express managed to pull in 24 fresh reviews, but received 12 rotten reviews on Rotten Tomato, and one common problem is present in every critique: the magnificent and dazzling scenery takes away from the all-star cast which takes away from the story being told. In short, Branagh just couldn’t balance the different aspects of his own film.
“It’s hard to overstate just how refreshing it feels to see a snug, gilded piece of studio entertainment that doesn’t involve any spandex. Or, more accurately, how refreshing it would have felt had Branagh understood why Christie’s story has stood the test of time,” David Ehrlich wrote in his review on IndieWire.
“But the biggest crime Branagh commits is wasting one of the most impressive ensemble casts in recent history, reducing Poirot’s 12 suspects to one-dimensional background characters,” The Wrap’s Tod Gilchrist wrote. “Ultimately, Murder on the Orient Express isn’t necessarily awful; it’s just inert, a prestige pic that’s too busy looking handsome and respectable to evoke any real intrigue or emotional involvement. Despite its shortcomings, it’s the kind of movie we need more of, where stars converge to play a juicy, small part in a bigger story.”
This isn’t the first time that Murder On the Orient Express hit the big screen. In 1974, Sidney Lumet directed an adaptation of the famous crime novel. Other famous novels by Agatha Christie have also been adapted for the big screen, including the 1978 adaptation of Death on the Nile, 1982’s Evil Under the Sun, and 1988’s Appointment with Death. Christie’s novels have also been adapted for TV.
Murder on the Orient Express is out in theaters on November 10.