Uncle Jay’s Movie Reviews: “Murder on the Orient Express”

We saw “Murder on the Orient Express” last night.

Capsule review: I had very low expectations, because the reviews have been mixed. It exceeded all of my hopes.

It is a very faithful adaptation of the original Agatha Christie novel — probably more faithful than the famous 1974 movie starring Albert Finney.

And the cinematography is wonderful.

A few complaints: Kenneth Branagh looks nothing like Hercule Poirot is described in the novels — short and roly-poly — and I found Poirot’s famous mustache, as embodied by Branagh, very distracting (especially when it’s blown up to gigantic movie-screen size).

So the casting is a little bit off-putting. On the other hand, Branagh’s is also a much more likable Poirot than David Suchet’s BBC/PBS version.

The ending of the movie sets up a possible sequel, and I found myself thinking, “Yes, I would spend time again with this Poirot.”

I’ve also heard some complaints about Johnny Depp’s performance, but 1. he’s very good in the role, and 2. (spoiler alert) his character is dead within the first 30 minutes of the film, so even if you despise him, he’s not around for long.

The movie moves slowly. It’s paced like a 1930s mystery movie, because — surprise! —- it’s a 1930s mystery. I’ve heard some people say they found it “boring.” I didn’t. I found it slow, but I was never bored.

(On the other hand, I did hear one lady leaving the theater say, “I fell asleep.” So your mileage may vary.)

Frankly, the only sour note for me was the closing song, which for no good reason is sung by Michelle Pfeiffer, who is part of an all-star cast that also includes Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz and Josh Gad (who is very effective in a serious role).

Anyway, if you think my singing is bad, you should hear Pfeiffer’s.

Which is a shame, because her acting in this film (as you might expect) is very, very good. In the final 30 minutes of the movie, she seems to age 20 years before your eyes, and I don’t think it’s the makeup — it’s all in her eyes and her body language.

All in all, if you like old-timey movies, this will be right up your alley, and the scenery is breathtaking.

It will look much better on a movie screen than on your home TV or laptop, so see it in a theater while you can. Uncle Jay says “check it out.”

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