Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie’s famous novel, Murder on the Orient Express, had another film adaptation hit the big screen over the weekend. This iteration was directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Michael Green. Branagh also portrayed the world famous detective Hercule Poirot, who finds himself solving a murder while traveling to his next case in England. The film also sports a rather large yet incredible supporting cast with the inclusion of Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, and Leslie Odom, Jr.
Set in 1934, the film begins with Hercule Poirot (Branagh) solving a theft in Jerusalem. He aims to take a break in Istanbul after this success, but he is asked instead to come to London for an impending case. His friend, Bouc, is the director on the Orient Express and offers him a place in first class for his travels. While on the train, Poirot is approached by Samuel Ratchett (Depp), a crooked businessman, who fears his life is in danger and wants Poirot to protect him. Poirot refuses the offer, and the next morning it is discovered that Ratchett has been murdered in his compartment. Poirot is asked to solve the murder while the train is delayed, and as Poirot investigates, all of his theories and personal beliefs will be put to the test.
I am already seeing a ton of mixed reviews for this adaptation, but I have to admit that I enjoyed it quite a bit. I read the novel about fifteen years ago, and while I didn’t exactly remember all of the details, I remembered it being quite the captivating story. I found the movie to be just as intriguing, and I will say that it stays true to the original material. For those who have never read the source material or seen previous adaptations, the ending is sure to be a shock. It is a classic “whodunit” and one of the best thanks to its eccentric lead detective, Hercule Poirot.
Honestly, Branagh’s version of Poirot is one of my favorite parts of this adaptation. With the cleverness of a Sherlock Holmes and a profound penchant for balance and tidiness, he’s an intriguing lead character. He is eccentric at times, and even with that ridiculous mustache, he has a keen mind. He figures out quickly the true motivations behind the murder, and I love his personal journey during the film. He states at the beginning that he lives under the belief that there is right and wrong and not much in between. However, this case challenges that notion for him, and it leads to him to becoming a changed man by the end of the film.
Outside of Branagh’s performance, I have to admit that Michelle Pfeiffer is a true standout as the loud and suggestive widow, Caroline Hubbard. Truly, the supporting cast for this film was spectacular. I did not love Depp’s performance as Ratchett, but he also wasn’t in the film long enough to distract me. Outside of the performances, I even enjoyed the style of the film. Some of the beginning CG needed some work, but I loved the whimsical feel presented between the finery of the train and the snow-covered landscapes.
Overall, I really did enjoy the film. It had hints of humor where it was appropriate, and it completely captured the eccentric yet endearing character of Hercule Poirot. There were times that he might have felt silly, but to be fair, I didn’t mind those moments of levity in light of a deeply disturbing case. It is not as fast-paced as I believe the trailer depicted, but it a classic murder mystery with some hard-hitting revelations along the way. As with most mysteries, things are not as they appear. I personally believe that Murder on the Orient Express is worth a watch in the theater, but if mysteries are not your thing, then I can also suggest that you wait a few months until it is available through Redbox.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.