“Murder on the Orient Express” – Whodunit in Grand Style

Murder on the Orient Express, published in 1934, was one of Agatha Christie’s most famous novels. The best-selling author of all time, the late Agatha Christie captivated readers with her fictitious crime stories, and Murder on the Orient Express was certainly no exception. The story featured Christie’s most notable character, Hercule (not Hercules) Poirot, a Belgian detective who appeared in 33 of Christie’s novels.

Released in 1974, the original Murder on the Orient Express film boasted an impressive cast, which included Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery, and Vanessa Redgrave. Now 43 years later, a new Murder on the Orient Express takes viewers on the ride of their lives as they, along with Detective Hercule Poirot, try to solve the murder of one of his fellow passengers on board the Orient Express, a lavish train making its way through the snowy mountains of Europe.

Like the 1974 film, the 2017 version also has an elite cast, including three Academy Award winners and three Academy Award nominees. The Director of 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh, also tackles the role of Detective Poirot, a character that Christie herself once described as a “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep.” (Personally, I didn’t find that those adjectives necessarily applied to him, but instead found his fastidious need for perfection to be rather amusing.)

(I assure you, the reader of this review, that there will be absolutely no spoilers as you continue with the synopsis of this intriguing film.) With his signature mustache, Poirot must successfully deduce which of his fellow passengers has committed murder, desperate to solve the case before another victim’s life is perhaps cut short as well. As Poirot tries to solve the crime, he meticulously interrogates the eclectic group of strangers, carefully observing each of them for the faintest clue that will steer his investigation in the right direction even though the train itself has literally gone off the tracks. As the passengers are trapped in the safety of the train as they wait to be dug out of the snow, Poirot discovers a thick web of purposeful deceit and manipulation that leaves him befuddled as he asks himself, “Whodunit?”

The original Murder on the Orient Express film was released before I was born, and, believe it or not, as an avid reader I somehow neglected to ever pick up an Agatha Christie novel. From the trailer, I somewhat expected this 2017 version to be a bit like 1985’s Clue. While also falling under the genre of crime and mystery, Clue is labeled a comedy while Murder on the Orient Express is categorized as a drama. Yes, there are some humorous quips that made me smirk here and there, but Murder on the Orient Express, I discovered, is a lot darker than Clue.

You know how sometimes as you’re watching a mystery movie you’re lead to believe that one particular character is the culprit only to have your mind blown as the denouement reveals it was an entirely different character? Yeah, this isn’t that kind of movie! As Poirot continued unearthing new details that seemed to seal the fate of one character, another piece of evidence would suddenly send Poirot in another direction, making me more confused, yet more interested. I appreciated that I wasn’t able to figure it all out on my own, solidifying what a clever storyline it was.

My husband Mike and daughter Addie attended the movie with me. Although the movie is PG-13, Addie, who’s ten going on older than me it seems, was fine watching it. Because Addie is so mature, as parents, Mike and I didn’t worry about her seeing it. Yes, there was a murder being investigated, but it wasn’t nearly as horrific as things she sees daily on the evening news. The thematic elements, I suspect, would be too deep for children younger than Addie, especially the motive that lead to one of the passenger’s untimely demise.

When asked how he liked the film, Mike responded, “The star-studded cast was impressive, especially Kenneth Branagh. I kept forgetting that was him because Poirot was such a different kind of character for him, super quirky. It was nice to see Michelle Pfeiffer on the big screen again.”

Addie shared, “When I walked out of the theater, all I could honestly think to myself was, ‘Wow!’ I really enjoyed it! It was pretty cool seeing Captain Jack Sparrow star with Rey from Star Wars and Olaf from Frozen!” (I agree, Addie!)

If you’re looking for a well-acted movie with thoughtful cinematography and excellent special effects, then Murder on the Orient Express won’t leave you feeling sidetracked.

Movie times: click here

Genre:  Crime, Drama, Mystery

Director:  Kenneth Branagh

Actors:   Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom, Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley

Running Time: 1 hour 54 minutes

Rating:  Rated PG-13 for violence and thematic elements

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“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag.

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