Murder on the Orient Express: Sponsored by Movember

In terms of murder, the moment I knew this movie would have more in common with the horrific nature of the Zodiac killer than the manner in which I treated the verses on my latest mixtape (straight fire), was the moment the studio tried to sell this adaptation of an early 20th century Agatha Christie novel with an “Imagine Dragons” song in its first trailer. Because how else do you sell children and teens on a classic parlor-car mystery game like the manufactured pop angst of a 21st century alt rock band? You don’t. And that’s the point. This film was doomed…eh, too dramatic…hobbled the second the producers and studio exec’s decided to make a serious thriller out of what was originally designed to be a campy, fun mystery romp without re-imagining the characters and plot beats intended to reach a more mature PG-13 audience.

Directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, as Hercule Poirot, the Frenchiest Belgian since French Toasted Belgian Waffles (patent pending) who is also “probably the greatest detective in all the world” finds himself thrust into the role of mustachioed Batman as he alone must solve the murder of one of the passengers aboard the Orient Express. Hence the title, Murder on the Orient Express, which is perhaps the greatest revelation made during the borderline insufferable 2 hour 10 minute runtime of this film.

MOTOE (in this case, not an infectious toe disease, but an acronym [I’ll let you solve the mystery of what it stands for{been a while since nested brackets, hooray}]) despite my negative setup, wasn’t actually as bad as I was expecting. In fact, I rather enjoyed the first half of the movie as the story was setup and the characters were introduced. The pacing was a bit more brisk and playful. Character introductions were enjoyable, and there was a bit of fun to be had as you discovered their individual personality quirks and backstories. Yet all this only serves as window dresser because once the plot kicks into gear, you fast realize a sense of ambivalence for any of these characters. Compounded further by the fact that their caricatured roles which provided the only semblances of intrigue, melted away completely. Compounded even further (I can sense all you finance nerds salivating at all this compounding) by the investigation itself quickly unraveling into a convoluted, self-important mess. And as I alluded to earlier, this was the primary issue with the film: vision and tone. MOTOE should’ve been a campy, fun, dark comedy of sorts similar in vain to “The Nice Guys” or any Wes Anderson movie. In fact, Wes Anderson already delivered the perfect audition to helm a MOTOE remake with his film “The Darjeeling Limited”, in my humble but correct opinion.

Nevertheless, Branagh’s direction is solid, especially in the choice to shoot in beautiful Panavision 65 mm format; excellent decision my good man. Indeed, the performances of the star studded, ensemble cast are concrete as well, featuring Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, William Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges, John Cena, Nicolas Cage, Carrot Top, Peter Dinklage, Jeb Bush, Martin Lawrence, Carlos Mencia, and Keyboard Cat. I’ll let you figure out where the real cast ends and my ADHD begins.

At best, Murder on the Orient Express is an acceptable weekend filler to help you recover from the face-melting, heavy metal action ride of Thor Ragnarok, and prepare your visual organs to receive yet another sweat inducing, thrill ride into the realm of nerdom with next week’s Justice League. At worst, MOTOE’s Blu-Ray case will make for a fine drink coaster. I’d say its somewhere in between, and thus worth a watch.

All that being said, I’d actually recommend bypassing this film entirely for the adorably stupid Daddy’s Home Two; know’s what it is, and has fun being it. And Will Ferrell can do no wrong in my eyes.

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