A murder has happened on the illustrious Orient Express. A man by the name of Mr. Ratchet (Johnny Depp) lay dead in his sleeping car covered with multiple stab wounds — 12 to be exact. The evidence? Ratchet’s loaded pistol unfired and under his pillow, a pocket watch with a broken face stopped at 1:15 am, a button from the coat of a train attendee, a pipe cleaner and a handkerchief initialed with the letter “H.” Only the distinct, flamboyant mustache of Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) can solve this mystery. This is the plot of the Nov. 10 film, Murder on the Orient Express.
Based on Agatha Christie’s mystery novel published in 1934, Murder on the Orient Express is set around the time period when the book was written. The Orient Express is a lavish train heading from Syria through Istanbul to London. Thirteen eccentric passengers are aboard the train each with their own personal agendas. One passenger, Hercule Poirot, is the self-proclaimed “greatest detective in the world.”
“I basically went through the book with a Sharpie and highlighted anything I thought was part of what might make mine [movie] sort of different,” said Branagh actor and director of the film. The portrayal of Poirot by Branagh felt like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Gustave from The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Branagh continued, “I’d have a little checklist of the things I’d go back to and have your sort of identikit version of who he is ultimately trying to leap off into something that you thought moment to moment could be spontaneous and real. But [Christie] gives lots of detail.”
The film has a super cast of actors and actresses such as Daisy Ridley who plays Miss Mary Debenham, a quaint girl with unabashed intelligence who appears to have a former relationship with Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr.). Other celebrities like Josh Gad, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer and Willem Dafoe starred in the film. Each character has a luxurious wardrobe reminiscent of the glamour of the early 1920s set to the individual persona.
This filmed earned a solid A- rating. The sets did a great job making the audience feel as if they were aboard the beautiful train. The murder mystery of the plot is reminiscent of the classic game Clue but still held an unexpected surprise near the end that kept the story exciting. Each character was witty in their own way, which made the film entertaining and fun to watch. There were small moments in the film that felt a bit dry, but not enough to affect the rest of the film. Several of the characters try to portray deep emotions, but it didn’t come across as sincere, instead seemed almost forced.
“I was staggered by the beauty [of the film],” said Depp in an interview discussing the film and working with Branagh. “Just seeing every piece of the puzzle come together in the beautiful way that Kenneth constructed the film. He’s a force to be reckoned with, a genius. I’d film anything he wanted to film with me.”