Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Review

murder

A group of passengers board a train. One of the passengers ends up being murdered. Everyone is a suspect. And one of the passengers is a renowned detective, named Hercule Poirot. Poirot now makes it his mission to find who the killer is and bring them to justice.

Murder on the Orient Express is another adaptation based on the novel by Agatha Christie. Unlike most mystery movies of recent like Gone Girl or The Girl On the Train, this film plays out more like the classic murder mystery story of the old days with a detective, several suspects, and clues found along the way. The film does succeed at keeping the mystery going and keeping you guessing on who the killer is until its ultimate reveal. Even the reveal itself contains a few twists. As an adaptation I think it does as well as it possibly can. However, I do have to say that the overall story works much better on paper in its novel form. So much more is able to be covered and detailed. As its own medium, as I mentioned, the film does well. But there are instances where I felt that it felt a bit rushed, and that it affected with much of the explanations that Poirot reveals whenever he finds certain clues or makes certain revelations. It’s mentioned and then it’s done without any further expansion or explantation. So basically you’re just taking his word for it. Along with this, many of the characters are massively underdeveloped and aren’t given much focus. With the exception of Michelle Pfeiffer (who is terrific in her role), along with Daisy Ridley, and Josh Gad, the other characters are just there to be red herrings. And two characters you actually forget are even there until they come into play towards the end of the film. Granted they all play a major part in the climax, we still don’t get enough of a feel of them prior. Without getting too “the book is better”, my point is that I think this is a difficult story to translate to film because the novel can so easily take its time to focus on events and characters, and with a film you’re only limited so much time. So that’s just a bit of a tip going into it. But again, it does as well as it possibly can to at least try make the film work. It’s also worth noting that towards the end, the film gets actually a lot deeper in emotion and tone than you would have expected. If there is anything I praise the film for its the terrific cinematography and the direction of Kenneth Branagh (who also stars in the film as Poirot). The scenery is beautiful to watch, and the amazing camera work and Branagh’s eye really tries to make us feel like we’re on the train, and there are many camera shots that really stand out and often with how they choose to follow the characters as they move about the train. And while the characters seem to go underdeveloped, the cast does an excellent job of really getting into the respective roles, and really turning in strong performances. Branagh presents different layers to Poirot. He delivers us comedy in his quirky detective persona, determination in his serious detective side, but then we get glimpses of a deeper and more humane side of him that’s sprinkled at a couple of points during the film and most especially at the end. As mentioned, Michelle Pfeiffer also turns in a solid performance as the wealthy, over-dramatic Mrs. Hubbard. Pfeiffer sells this performance, but then towards the end we see her turn in one great dramatic performance. Penelope Cruz is another who doesn’t get much development, but gives a really strong performance. And Johnny Depp turns in a really good performance as the most despicable man on the train. Then of course you have Dame Judi Dench as the feisty Russian princess. But one actor worth noting is Josh Gad. Between this and his performance in this year’s film Marshall, he shows he is more than capable of doing serious and dramatic roles as opposed to goofy comedy roles. So I really hope he does more roles like this and Marshall, because he really killed it in this film.

If you want to watch a good old fashioned mystery film with some good twists, then this one is for you. Should you rush out to the theater and see it? Not really, but for sure check it out on video. It’s extremely well-directed, filmed, and acted, and while I had my personal issues with the narrative and structure, it’s not a huge deal breaker.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) Review

pirates

The song of Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner, Henry (Brenton Thwaites) teams up with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in order to save his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman and bring him back to life. To do this, they must find the famous Trident of Poseidon before the evil Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), whom has a grudge against Jack, does. Along for the ride is Carina (Kaya Scodelario) as a young woman who also wants to find the trident based on a map left behind by her father, and Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

The latest entry in the Pirates franchise brings us on another adventure with Jack Sparrow, along with some newcomers. Like the last film, this one isn’t particularly necessary, but in a sense it does have more purpose than the last film. What this does is actually bring the series full circle with how our new characters connect to others. But there is a twist towards the end that feels completely out of nowhere and feel like an inconsistency in the series. In all honesty, the twist doesn’t really work, though I can understand its purpose. That aside, this entry does have everything you would expect from a Pirates film. Great set design, solid visuals and cinematography, fun action sequences, and of course some good laughs from ol’ Jack himself. But along with that we have an overstuffed script with too much going on and more characters than we actually need. And while we get some good humor from Jack Sparrow as per usual, it feels like he’s lost the spirit and adventurous side we’ve seen of him. Instead he’s just a regular perverted drunk, which he is, but that’s all he is in this one more or less. Depp still turns in a fine performance regardless as Sparrow, and the same goes for Rush as Barbossa. Although we are given a bit more depth into Barbossa’s character and Rush does a great job of showing this side of his character we haven’t seen before. Bardem is fine as Salazar, even if the character himself isn’t particularly as memorable or engaging as Barbossa in the first film or Davy Jones in 2 and 3. As far as the newcomers, the pair are a welcoming addition and do well with their respective roles. Their chemistry is decent, but the relationship aspect feels a bit too forced and rushed. Finally we have the return of our two other characters from the original trilogy. Orlando Bloom returns as Will Turner in a smaller role and is serves his minimal time well. Keira Knightley on the other hand, while nice to see, returns in a scene that feels so much like an after thought. She’s in the movie a whole 3 minutes and doesn’t receive any dialogue. This is merely a cameo, whereas Bloom is more of a “special appearance.”

The latest entry in the Pirates franchise definitely isn’t necessary, but nonetheless it’s a much better and more worthy entry than the last film. This one essentially brings the franchise full circle and works as a reboot. It still has the fun entertainment and laughs with its action, and the newcomers serve as worthy additions. Despite the bloated script, and some questionable choices in the script, as well as a forgettable villain, it’s still a ship worth sailing.

3.5/5