Murder at the Exposition Express: Oriental Rugs Really Tied the Plot Together
This movie was boring. I literally left halfway through it to get a strawberry shake with a friend because I was so bored. The 2017 movie, directed by, and starring, Kenneth Branagh, is a train wreck. Sorry that pun was just too easy to not use. Although the film itself had a beautiful presentation, and the plot eventually was extremely satisfying, ultimately it was a bust. Too much exposition, amateur dialogue, and incoherent details made this movie unwatchable.
Hercule Poirot is a fictional character, created by Agatha Christie, that has been in 33 novels, a dozen short stories, and several movies. The character also is the main driving force behind the Pink Panther detective “Inspector Clouseau.” Needless to say the man has a history of excellence, well other than when Steve Martian played him. So why was this movie so poorly constructed? First off the film starts by trying to nail down hard in your mind how Poirot is the greatest detective the world has ever known. And it hammers down that fact way too hard. At one point the character himself says “I’m the greatest detective the world has ever known.” The plot of the movie, the murder that happens on the Orient Express, takes 1/3rd into the movie. The entire intro is wasted showing me that Detective Poirot can solve any mystery or any detail with little to no skill other then noticing the smallest of details. Almost every introduction to every character is just exposition line after exposition line. Except for the dialogue that has other characters stating that they know who the main character is, and how he is the world’s greatest detective.
The cast for this movie is outstanding. The main character, Poirot, is played by the director Kenneth Branagh, and I think he might honestly be the weakest actor in the whole film. Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr, Penélope Cruz, Josh Gad, William Defoe, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Lucy Boynton, and Michelle Pfeiffer (I don’t even feel like I’m naming half of the cast right now) earn the fuck out of their paychecks. The acting in this film is astounding. The problem is however, there is not an equal distribution of screen time. I think Penélope Cruz’s character has a total of 4 minutes in the entire film. Meanwhile Daisy Ridley, fresh off of The Force Awakens, has more screen time then any other character other than the director. The plot tries hard to tell us that any character is a suspect, but then blatantly points the audience at two or three suspects that receive most of the dialogue or plot time while ignoring the rest of the cast.
The story, as far as murder mysteries goes, is a mess. Before the characters even set foot on the train, the plot tries to point hard that certain characters have secrets and therefore you have to think they are the murders. I’m not joking, as the detective is getting onto the train he overhears people literally talking about the murder. Even if it is some sort of “doubt bluff” situation, it gets the audience to think about the characters in a certain light. Once the murder of the Orient Express actually happens, we are met with a flurry of details. Almost all of which are never addressed or never come up in any other situation then “that dress was worn in order for the detective to see it; only for him to think about a dress.” The problem is that he almost instantly knows that it was a distraction and dismisses the detail. There is some value to the story, but I feel like most of it was a convoluted mess.
The end of the film is amazing. Even if it took such an inorganic track to get there. Once the audience finds out who the killer is, you are not disappointed. I was almost in tears at the emotional set up for the climax of the film. The movie basically revolves around another crime, not the murder on the train but a different one from years ago. The worst part however is the delivery or this murder. I still have no ides why the crime existed in the first place. They do not spend enough time diving into the details of the original murder, therefore not spending enough time into the backbone of the plot in my opinion. Personally I would have much rather enjoyed watching the movie start off with the details of the main murder in the film then a ‘priest, rabbi, and sunni walk into a bar’ and poop jokes. That being said, the film itself was beautiful.
The cinematographer, Haris Zambarloukos, is extremely talented. As much as I didn’t care about what was happening in the scenes, he made it so I still enjoyed watching them. There are perfect blends of color in the shots, incredible angles of scenes I wouldn’t have thought to show, and a really cool series of shots with characters from the view of a decorated window that shows their face multiplied. Movies are a work of art, especially on the visual landscape, and this film is one of the most beautiful I have seen in a long time. For example I don’t think I would have cared about the climax of the film if it was displayed any differently. The cast is sitting in a Last Supper type set up while the detective goes through all the evidence in a colorful spectrum. Then it cuts to a silent black and white flashback of the violent crime. That shit makes me have feelings. The problem is that this visually beautiful film wasn’t entertaining enough to sit through the perfectly shot scenes.
The moment I saw the main character’s mustache I though “This dude is a douche bag” and I wasn’t wrong. The main character goes out of his way to be unlikable. I never felt like I was rooting for him to solve the mystery. The overall story was really good, but the execution of the details just felt like a mess. Scenes that should have been more drawn out were merely glossed over. I mean the scene of when the detective found out about the murder, the point of the entire film and the name on the poster, was wrapped up in 3 seconds and had about as much emotion as a Drake song…. Not the good ones. I have heard the original film is better and/or that the short novel is still good, but this movie put such a sour taste in my mouth that I do not care to see another version of the mystery. Even the world’s greatest detective couldn’t see The Snappening erasing the film from ever existing in the first place.
Movie watched and review written by: Troy Smith