2 1/2 (out of 4)
Kenneth Branagh appears at home in the shoes and stache of detective Hercule Poirot, and he makes a hearty attempt to alter and update Agatha Christie's popular classic mystery for the mainstream masses. But this Murder on the Orient Express is somehow deflated and underwhelming despite being so lushly produced and magnificently star-studded.
Not that there couldn’t be something cinematic about murder and suspicion upon a snowbound train, no matter how many tries have been far from definitive. Some Christie stories are primed for modern manifestation like And Then There Were None, which has the makings of a lip-smacking horror flick – Orient Express boasts refined discourse and sharp humor, but nothing diverting enough to help the attention-span-contracting viewers fend off the urge to yawn. The narrative motion of the film is set upon a plateau early and the story’s shape is so driven by words and names that thrills never really manage to surface. Christie’s novel is an elaborate guessing game and, especially in all its snowy splendor onscreen, an unfulfilled one by the very end.
Sure, watching Penélope Cruz, William Dafoe, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer and especially Branagh function amongst the crime and costumes is its own mild but steady pleasure. Nevertheless, Murder on the Orient Express feels off set against today's other moviegoing distractions – the toying and teasing, in addition to the multitude of names, backstories and motivations, is much more suited for the imagination than for real.
To keep it brief...