Murder on the Orient Express is the latest movie adaptation of the classic murder mystery written by Agatha Christie. It tells the tale of the murder of an American businessman on the Orient Express, after the train is stranded during a snowstorm. Who amongst the thirteen passengers on the train is the murderer? It’s all up to exceptional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, to find the killer before he or she strikes again.
Agatha Christie is a legendary English mystery writer who is best known for her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. The Mousetrap, the play based on her short story Three Blind Mice, holds the world record for longest running theatre production, and is still being performed to this day in London’s West End since November 25, 1952. It is no wonder that Christie has captured Hollywood’s attention.
Some of Christie’s stories that have been previously adapted include 10 Little Indians (based on And Then There Were None), Witness for The Prosecution, the BBC Miss Marple series, the upcoming Crooked House (due to be released in the U.S on 22 December 2017), and of course, Murder on the Orient Express.
The most famous adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, is the 1974 classic directed by Sidney Lumet, starring screen legend Albert Finney, as Hercule Poirot. The suspects in this adaptation are portrayed by an all-star cast, which includes Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, and Ingrid Bergman. Bergman, won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her performance in this film.
2017’s modern adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express is directed by the brilliant Kenneth Branagh, in addition to playing the role Hercule Poirot himself. The casting of Hollywood’s A-List as the possible suspects is one of the movie’s strengths: the remarkable Michelle Pfeiffer takes over Lauren Bacall’s role as Ms. Hubbard, and includes Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Penélope Cruz, and Derek Jacobi in supporting roles.
Having such a great ensemble cast, and limited screen time gives them little opportunity to delve deep into their characters. Yet, each performance stands firmly on its own, and seeing all these famous faces together is one of this film’s strengths.
Aside from his remarkable moustache, Poirot’s ability to solve mysteries is credited to his extraordinary attention to detail and to his insistence on making sure that all the elements fit together in a neat little package. However, as this complex case unfolds and new revelations are uncovered, Poirot faces an uncomfortable truth; which makes him question the very nature of justice and whether we can truly escape the sins of our past.
Due to the film’s commercial success, Kenneth Branagh has already confirmed that he will play Detective Poirot again, in the upcoming sequel Death on The Nile.
This movie hosts some beautiful visual elements which are juxtaposed throughout Poirot’s drive to solve this nearly impossible case; such as the picturesque snowcapped mountains in a frozen European landscape. Murder on the Orient Express is filled with sophisticated luxury of first-class accommodations befitting their passengers’ elite standing, from the rich wooden paneling, expensive-looking desserts, fireplaces, and stylish 1930’s fashions. However, not all is what it seems as the beautiful cinematography is used to create a mood of isolation and quiet desperation. The tension is heightened by the fact that these passengers are stuck together in a small confined space, where their anger and resentment is waiting for the right opportunity to play itself out.
Murder on the Orient Express is a slow-paced murder mystery that takes pride in peeling back the layers one thin slice at a time, and uncovering new revelations that challenge what we may or may not know: What does it take for a community to heal and come to terms with a great tragedy? Do two wrongs really make a right?
Verdict: A sophisticated and thought-provoking story for those looking for a murder mystery with depth. However, its nostalgic feel and slow pace may not be ideal for some.