For me, two things were wrong with the 2017 film.
First, I think the Agatha Christie formula is now too overdone: a group of people gathered in a specific confined place (country house, train carriage, river steamer, etc.), one of them ends up dead through foul play, and the gifted amateur sleuth/police investigator/professional detective then has work out who is the murderer among that finite group of people. It’s been done to death in so many books, movies and TV series. Here, the group of suspects are the passengers in one carriage of the famous Orient Express train stranded by an avalanche somewhere in central Europe. One of the passengers has been knifed multiple times and Poirot, only on the train by chance, has to find the murderer. It doesn’t help when it turns out the murder victim himself has a dark and sinister past.
Second, it’s really not much good going to a detective film if you know the ending beforehand. Having seen the 1974 movie, I already knew Christie’s surprise twist at the end of the story.
More to the point perhaps, I don’t really think this 2017 version of the tale adds enough extra elements to the story to be worth making yet another movie about it. Granted, the opening and closing scenes of Kenneth Branagh’s film are rather different, much more theatrical, and decidedly more dramatic than those in Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film, but the rest of the story and the surprise ending are basically unchanged.
Just as the 1974 movie was packed with movie and theatrical luminaries from that era – Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, Albert Finney as Poirot, Richard Widmark as the murder victim, to name a few – so, too, is the 2017 film packed with luminaries from today, who generally do a good job: Johnny Depp as the murder victim, Branagh as Poirot, Michelle Pfeiffer as a chief suspect, Judi Dench as another suspect passenger, to give a few examples. I much preferred Branagh’s Poirot to Finney’s – the latter was shouty, overbearing, and aggressive. Brannagh was much more reflective, quiet, polite, and cerebral. Also, much more OCD-ish than in the 1974 version – to whit, the episode with the eggs!
On a lighter note, Kenneth Branagh’s moustache is FAR more impressive than Albert Finney’s. Real or fake? Branagh was asked this recently in a radio interview. He wouldn’t say! The moustache is probably the unsung star of the 2017 movie.
Overall, I sort-of enjoyed it, and was kind-of glad I went, but it didn’t really alter my ho-hum approach to remakes. Only go see it if you don’t already know the story and its ending.
I give it 3 ½ stars out of five.