Murder on the Orient Express is a 2017 mystery drama film directed by Kenneth Branagh with a screenplay by Michael Green, based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie. The film stars Branagh as Hercule Poirot, with Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley in supporting roles. The film is the fourth screen adaptation of Christie’s novel, following the 1974 film, a 2001 TV film version, and a 2010 episode of the television series Agatha Christie’s Poirot.
After solving a theft at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, wants to have some time off and rest in Istanbul. However he is called for a case in London and his friend Bouc, the director of the Orient Express, offers a room aboard the train. While in the train, American businessman Edward Ratchett offers to pay Poirot to be his bodyguard, thinking the Belgian’s detecting skills should protect him against possible assassins, but Poirot politely refuses. That night, Poirot hears strange noises coming from Ratchett’s compartment, and later sees someone in a red kimono running down the hallway. An avalanche derails the train’s engine, stranding the passengers.
The next morning Ratchett is discovered to have been murdered sometime during the night as his body is found with a dozen stabs. Bouc asks Poirot to help solve the case. Poirot discovers a partially burned note connecting Ratchett to the kidnapping of Daisy Armstrong, a child who was abducted from her bedroom and held for ransom. After the ransom was paid, Daisy was found murdered. Ratchett’s true identity is revealed: he was John Cassetti, Daisy’s kidnapper and murderer. The shock of her death caused her mother Sonia to die after giving premature birth to a stillborn baby; her father, Colonel Armstrong, then committed suicide. The family’s nursemaid Susanne was wrongly suspected of complicity, leading to her being arrested and she hanged herself while in police custody, only to be found innocent afterwards.
After conducting his individual interviews and being shot at, Poirot meets the suspects outside the train, offering two theories of how Cassetti died. The first is simple: A murderer disguised as a conductor boarded the train, murdered Cassetti, and fled. The second is more complex: every suspect is connected to the Armstrongs, Susanne, or her trial in some way—including those who had pretended otherwise—and had motive to kill Cassetti. Hubbard is revealed to be Linda Arden, a former stage actress, and Sonia Armstrong’s mother. She admits to hiring everyone else to be on the Orient Express and all of them took their turns to stab Cassetti.
Poirot challenges the passengers and Michel to shoot him with Arbuthnot’s gun, since he is the only one who can expose their plot; Bouc can lie, but Poirot, obsessed with truth and balance, cannot. Hubbard grabs the gun and tries to kill herself, but it is not loaded; Poirot wanted to see how the suspects would react. With the train back on track, Poirot concludes that justice is impossible in the case, as Cassetti deserved death; for the first time, Poirot will have to live with a lie, and imbalance. He presents the lone killer theory to the Yugoslavian police, allowing the others to leave on the train. As he disembarks, a messenger asks him to investigate a death on the Nile. Poirot takes the case.
It was ok though the movie did not have the style and panache of the original, which I had seen many years ago. The focus is way too much on Kenneth Branagh as Poirot and the movie does plod along a bit. The production though is stylish and gorgeous. 7.5 outta 10!