A luxuriant moustache is the most interesting thing about Murder on the Orient Express, director/star Kenneth Branagh’s disappointingly suspense-free adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic whodunnit. Attached to Branagh himself, cast here as Christie’s world-famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, the soup-strainer is quite something: two sculpted waves of grey breaking in opposite directions across Branagh’s still youthful face, offset by a soul-patch trickling down his chin. It makes him look like a cross between Gangs of New York’s Bill the Butcher and the barman of a hipster craft ale microbrewery.
Murder on the Orient Express (12A) **
Unfortunately, Brannagh’s performance is similarly try-hard, lacking the natural oddball quality that might have lifted this out of the realm of studied, airless pastiche. As an all-star vehicle for some good old-fashioned murder-mystery fun, the film certainly fails to deliver the requisite sense of twinkly nostalgia. Despite a few flashy establishing shots, the titular train feels neither exotic nor claustrophobic enough, and the cast — which includes Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfieffer, Penelope Cruz, Olivia Colman, Willem Dafoe and Daisy Ridley — seem unsure whether or not they’re supposed to deliver their ripe dialogue with their tongues in their cheeks. Consequently, Christie’s twisty plot unravels in fairly perfunctory fashion: its reveals botched; its denouement boring; its sequel set-up blatant. When the Orient Express grinds to a halt early in the film, snow-bound on a green-screened CGI set for the duration of the running time, it feels appropriately symbolic. Facial hair really isn’t enough to power a movie.