by Joshua Shelton

20th Century Fox

“Murder on the Orient Express” chronicles charming and obsessive detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) who stumbles upon his next, great murder mystery while snow-locked aboard a derailed train full of interesting characters; every passenger is a suspect.

Despite apparent attempts to harness style, cunning, and adventure — all trademarks of a great caper — “Murder on the Orient Express” is incredibly disinteresting. The dazzling cast (Kenneth Branagh, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley and more) proves fruitless and ineffective on a genuinely boring script. The already vacant dialogue appears to be compromised by poor editing, robbing the notable cast of any opportunity to really act. Speedy cutaways to soaring shots of computer-generated mountain ranges often interrupt emotional moments, and when spliced with stiff interior shots of the actors, the film loses its engagement with the audience as well as a cohesive visual language.

Approximately one third of the way through this two-hour journey, excitement builds to a brief climax, before the witless mystery becomes totally transparent and predictable. Subsequently it attempts to salvage its own enjoyability, to no avail, by haphazardly introducing new characters to the utterly unmemorable existing cast. The film is in many ways too thoughtless to be a thriller, or anything to the enjoyment of an adult viewer, and yet too dull and conceptual for a family audience. For a movie that seems to revolve around both wit and mystery, “Murder on the Orient Express” is neither clever nor exciting.

That said, for that short lived summit of entertainment, the film bares a glimmer of potential. The concept is poignant: a modern mystery movie with a distinct style and an all-star ensemble, somewhat in the same vein of “Clue” (1985), or perhaps drafting in the excitement of “The Hateful Eight” (2015), both films of the same genre and even similar aesthetic. Amidst these potential influences — the original “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974) included — as well as promising talent, it becomes clear that the newest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel was not a hopeless production. The film has strong elements that simply go under-utilized. The fatal flaw in the disappointing “Murder on the Orient Express” was in execution, as it is ultimately not an engaging experience for the audience.

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