Murder on the Orient Express movie helps us relive Agatha Christie‘s crime mystery era once again. Hercule Poirot, the forgotten detective breathes yet again and he does so, with a flair that’s peerless owing to a power pack performance aced by Kenneth Branagh. The whodunnit flick is based on the eponymous novel and is further aggrandized by Kenneth’s cinematic filters and its extraordinary screenplay written by Michael Green.
However, the movie isn’t pure gold either. Frame segues, at times, do not feel effortless. Murder on the Orient Express movie drags for its first half trying to sieve into its tale. Even though that part is crucial, it often sucks out life from the movie.
The world is a cold cruel place.
Continuous shots are a joy to watch. Long winding takes that the cast aces without letting their guards down only tell us how good they are all as actors. They perform their bits unflinchingly. Kenneth Branagh’s visionary takes from different angles make the story more riveting. His close-ups and continuity in shots will leave you stupefied.
Even though the final revelation is an epic unspooling and might have blown your brains out, I am pretty sure you were left scratching your heads on a lot of occasions. For that, I have decided to do an analysis of sorts with full spoilers for the Murder on the Orient Express movie.
Bear with me, it begins:
Plot Analysis of Murder on the Orient Express Movie (Spoilers)
We see Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective solving a theft case at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem first. Then we find him traveling to Istanbul where he wishes to rest but is forced to return to London for another case. Piggybacking on the Orient Express with his friend Bouc (Tom Bateman), who is the director of the train, he is asked to scooch himself into a room.
They may get lost in life, but I will be damned if they don’t know where they are.
Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) offers a job to Hercule to be his personal bodyguard during the three-day journey. Ratchett had been receiving life-threatening letters and so he wishes Hercule Poirot to help him out.
Ratchett: You are the world famous detective Hercule Poirot. Avenger of the innocent. Is that what they call you in the papers?
Hercule Poirot: And you are the innocent?
The latter bluntly refuses since he knows Ratchett to be a crooked businessman. His reputation preceded him.
The same night Hercule has a hard time sleeping owing to noises coming from Ratchett’ s room.
Caroline Hubbard: Eyes linger any longer I will have to charge rent.
Edward Ratchett: I will pay.
At one point he even sees someone running in a red kimono down the hallway. The train gets derailed on account of an avalanche leaving the passengers stranded.
You know there’s something about a tangle of strangers pressed together for days with nothing in common but the need to go from one place to another and never see each other again.
So we already knew a murder was imminent. (What gave away? The title?) The next morning it is discovered that Ratchett was murdered during the night with a dozen stab wounds on his body. The investigation begins with Bouc convincing Hercule to take the case up, so no one gets wrongfully convicted by the police.
If there was a murder then there was a murderer.
Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer) claims there was a man in her apartment the other night.
Hercule discovers a note that has been destroyed. He manages to reveal its content, figuring out the reason behind the murder – the first piece of the puzzle.
Let’s ask the victim.
Ratchett, the victim, earlier known as John Cassetti was responsible for abducting Daisy Armstrong, a child abducted from her crib and held for ransom. Even after the ransom was paid, Ratchett still murdered the poor child. Taken by grief, her mother Sonia died in childbirth giving birth to a stillborn. Her father, Colonel Armstrong too committed suicide unable to bear the pain.
The police wrongfully convicted Susanne, the family’s nursemaid, who hanged herself up, even though later exonerated after her death.
I have lived long enough to know what I like. What I dislike, I cannot abide.
What follows is Hercule Poirot individually setting suspects aside interrogating them one by one. Amongst other pieces of evidence, he finds a handkerchief with an ‘H’ mark on it, a missing button from a conductor’s uniform from Hubbard’s compartment. Hercule also discovers the kimono he had seen the other night in his own suitcase.
Hubbard is meanwhile stabbed in the back however she survives. She is unable to register the attacker though saying the attack was from behind.
As the investigation proceeds, Hercule keeps on discovering links that people have to Armstrong’s family in one way or the other. When all fingers seem to be pointing towards Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr.) tries to shoot Hercule claiming himself to be the killer. But misses him shooting him on the shoulder. Bouc intervenes and he gets caught.
We are surrounded by lies.
But it is clear to Hercule that he isn’t the killer since the doctor was an expert marksman who wouldn’t have possibly missed.
In the final moments, Hercule lines everybody up, buys time for a showdown even though the train was already repaired and ready to leave once again.
He presents two theories. The first one being – the killer disguised himself as a conductor boarded the train and killed Ratchett and absconded.
The second theory is the real one where we find out that each traveler in the train had a motive to kill Ratchett. They were all affected by the monstrosity of a villain that didn’t deserve to live. They all stabbed Ratchett together inflicting on him poetic justice, all twelve of them, and hence 12 wounds.
Did he have enemies?
Pick a number.
It is revealed that Hubbard is none other than Sonia’s mother Linda Arden former stage actress who set the events in motion.
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Poirot places his gun in front of them asking them to shoot him, since he was the only one who knew their truth. That Bouc could lie, but he couldn’t fracture the truth. Hubbard picks up the gun and tries to shoot herself, but the gun wasn’t loaded. A test clearly on Hercule’s part to see how would the suspects react.
It is a mind-boggling output that leaves Hercule brooding. For the first time in his life, he believes that the killer deserved to die. He goes with the first theory in front of the police allowing all of them to escape.
What are you afraid of?
As the movie concludes we find Hercule Poirot being approached by someone about a murder case near the Nile river. It is a wink at the sequel that’s clearly based on the book Death on the Nile.
The Final Verdict
It feels so good that Agatha is still not forgotten! Her famous character Hercule Poirot springs alive and that too in ravishing pizzazz. It is hard not to marvel at how amazing Kenneth Branagh looks as Hercule. He does him enthralling justice. Can’t wait to see him in future runs.
The flick is a stunner especially when it comes to its cinematography. It packs some really astounding visuals. It has this alluring cinematic feel to it that will make you marvel every shot. I particularly loved long uncut camera shots that Kenneth preferred to show working on different perspectives. Although some of the long shots ended up taking away the fun and you feel a little editing could have made it better. To be honest you can still be okay with it, if you are paying attention to what the characters have to say.
It was one of a kind experience. It makes us believe that the future of Agatha Christie is in good hands. Highly recommend this movie to people who genuinely love crime drama.
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