What would have been a grandiose train ride through the snowy and frosty mountains of Istanbul becomes a bumpy and agitating homicide case on the “Murder on the Orient Express.” A peaceful journey is disrupted when one of their fellow passengers’ diabolical murder brings suspicion and fear in the air.
Based on the suspenseful 1934 Agatha Christie novel and following the 1974 film, passengers wait to board the train in a crowded and noisy station. Famous detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) believes he is traveling to solve a mystery case, not realizing he is already involved in one. Poirot witnesses a variety of characters who are all seemingly innocent and unaware that each harbors a deep, dark secret.
In the beginning Ratchett — an “art seller” played by the incomparable Johnny Depp — gives off a villainous vibe that increases the suspense of the trek.
Depp doesn’t steal the show for too long, however, as Ratchett is stabbed 12 times in his sleep. Not knowing why or who murdered him, Poirot embarks on an investigation and questions each member in the compartment.
In what feels like an exhilarating game of clue, Poirot attempts to deduce which of the other 12 passengers committed the crime. Did the professor do it or maybe the doctor? These questions whirl around throughout the film, causing a wavering trust for each character.
Along with giving an excellent performance in the lead role of the iconic Poirot, Branagh also serves as the director, creating an impressive adaptation of the famous novel. The dynamic characters, thrilling scenes and increased eagerness to find out who committed the murder creates an amazing story.
Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley and Judi Dench among others, make up an impressive ensemble cast, bringing out the quirks and traits of the characters in the respected novel and staying true to the original storyline.
Ratchett’s assistant, Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), shows suspicious qualities that make him a prime suspect. However, the very religious Pilar Estravados (Penélope Cruz) and the charming Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr.) all display distrustful behavior that suggests one of them could have committed the crime as well.
The train then comes to a halt while a snowstorm derails the locomotive, causing the passengers to succumb to the harsh winter conditions. The tension increases as shaky camera angles mimic the motion sickness that trains can cause and the boiling anger each suspect provokes as they reveal possible motives for the murder of Ratchett.
The miraculous mountain view from their passenger windows is a stark contrast to the horrors and malevolence within each passenger. The train’s atmosphere becomes more eerie as the characters continue to doubt one another.
Although the film is mainly an attraction for mystery fans, moviegoers will enjoy the lively questions and debates that will likely spark among friends and family once the movie comes to a close.
“Murder on the Orient Express” proves to be a great murder mystery with real depth to its story. It includes a great cast, elements of suspense and beautiful cinematography to produce a splendid tale.