Murder on the Orient Express

MurderOrientExpress
Do you remember who did it last time? That.

T he climax didn’t change. I want you to know this because the reveal to Murder on the Orient Express is, IMHO, the worst-kept secret whodunit? in all English language humanities. Hence, if you’re hoping, like I was, maybe this time _________ did it, you will be let down.

Hence, the biggest difference between the original Murder on the Orient Express and the newfangled version is Hercule Poirot’s moustache grew three sizes in the interim, much like the heart of the Grinch. Belgian self-proclaimed world’s greatest detective Hercule Poirot (director Kenneth Branagh) probably takes out ‘stache insurance these days. He’s a type-A’s type A, demonstrated by a need to step in horse crap with the right to match the accidental trod with the left. It’s the winter of 1934 and after making a mockery of local police work at the Wailing Wall, HP has decided on some me time. Oops, recalled to western Europe, may as well take the train, the Orient Express, which goes to the real life Orient equally as often as it goes to Hoboken.

Early on, Hercule gives a teeth-gnashing speech about knowing right and wrong and having no doubts on either conclusion. Of course, this is all foreshadowing, so that maybe he can be presented with an ethical gray area of sorts. However, it made me wonder how easily he’d fit in as an American – so confident, so self-assured, so independent, so self-righteous. Yup, on the surface, he’d make a fine Yank. Oh, except for that whole “uncanny ability to find the truth.” Yes, one can only imagine how he wouldn’t fit in:

“Mister Poy-rot! Mister Poy-rot!”
Hercule Poirot: “That’s ‘Poirot’ … ‘pwah-rho’ ”
“Don’t care. Who killed the tycoon? It was the widow, right?”
“Yeah, the widow! Can’t trust a woman who speaks her mind”
“No, it was the butler. He’s black!”
“No! The gardener! He’s an illegal. Send him back!”
“No, shoot him!”
HP: “Please, please, calm down. All shall be revealed.”
“The widow!”
“The gardener!”
HP: “Gentleman, please. The widow stood to inherit nothing more even with the change of will. The butler was a devoted servant for 35 years. The gardener is from San Diego.”
“Well, who then?”
“The killer is none other than … the son and heir, Ronald Jr.!”
*gasps*
HP: “Of this, I’m afraid there can be no doubt – the reptilian scale at the scene of the crime comes from the terrarium in the home of his third mistress … the tattoo he had removed just last week; you can still see the scar … the murder weapon can be found the his personal safe; the one of which only he knows the combination and the location.”
“But why?”
HP: “Ahhh, mon ami. Money.”
“But he’s rich!”
HP: “Oui. But I’m afraid that without his father’s fortune, he’d only be worth a mere $50 M. He wouldn’t be able to afford the island he had his eye on.”
“Boooooo. He’s rich. They don’t need more money. Who ever heard of rich people being greedy? Booooo.”
“Fake news!”
“You suck, Poy-rot!”
HP: “No. This is what happened: The son killed his father, for money. We even have the taped feed from the camera he thought was inoperable. Look, here before your eyes is the body double who served as the son’s alibi.”
“Why are you lying to us?”
“Booooo. It was the gardener!”
“Build a wall!”
“No, it was the widow!”
“ Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”

*sigh*

Has anybody ever considered that Poirot did it? Because, you know, death finds Poirot as if the man walked around in a holocaust cloak while toting a scythe, ifyouknowwhatI’msayin’. While Branagh was keen in letting us know all about the guy he was playing, the secondary stars come off a little empty. I’m sure this was a ploy to set up the mystery, but generally in this genre you’re supposed to let us know, in the very least, who was going to buy it and why as early as possible. Took a full half-hour here until we know it’s “rug salesman” Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp). Did Ratchett have something to do with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping that we’re going to call the “Armstrong baby kidnapping” because we didn’t buy the rights to the non-fictional story? Of course he did. And that’s why he’s gonna die.

Murder on the Orient Express came in with a lot of star power, but truth be told, Poirot himself is the only character worth mention. The only back-and-forth I truly enjoyed was between Branagh and Depp, and that, of course, ended by the time we get to Act II. In retrospect, I truly wonder if Branagh played upon our knowledge of the original. I ask this for two reasons: 1) It’s obvious a great deal went into casting and set design, as if the atmosphere of the picture could save the embarrassing redundancy of climax. 2) More importantly, the solution is impossible given the facts displayed to us. Completely impossible. Act III is a circus of overacting and ridiculous leaps in investigation, i.e. “Aha! So you are the night duty maid who tended the baby “Armstrong” when she was kidnapped! Sorry, pal, nobody mentioned a maid. Nobody mentioned the Armstrong’s chauffeur or their drycleaner or the family hamster wrangler. Asking people who don’t know the Orient Express ending to guess at it is like taking the SAT blindfolded. If you like atmosphere, this film might do, but if you like mysteries (which sounds silly as you’ve attended an Agatha Christie adaptation), you have come to the wrong place.

Twelve strangers rendezvous on a train
And discover excitement and pain
Crime fans, here’s the news:
You unravel the clues
Only if you’ve kidnapped Branagh’s brain

Rated PG-13, 114 Minutes
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green
Genre: Pretending locked-door mysteries are solvable
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Agatha-holics
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: People with memories

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