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Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review (2017) | Full Spoilers

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.

still of Johnny Depp as Ratchett in Murder on the Orient Express

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.

The Murder

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.

The Reason

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.

Murder on the Orient Express movie still of Hercule Poirot played by Kenneth Branagh

Evidence

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.

The Revelation

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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It is also revealed that it was Arbuthnot, the doctor, who had deliberately planted the knife in Hubbard’s back, so as to not injure her and to set Hercule Poirot on a wild goose chase.

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?
Everything.

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.

You can check out our other movie reviews as well.

Check out the trailer of Murder on the Orient Express movie:

Victoria and Abdul Movie Review (2017) | The Lost Story of a Queen and her Indian Servant

Victoria and Abdul movie is based on the true story of Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim as assembled in the eponymous book written by Shrabani Basu. While the movie is like a theatricalized version of what events could have possibly played based on the journals of Abdul Karim, it has little information to offer.

Without proper substance to hold it up, the story of Victoria and Abdul ends up becoming a tad bland. There isn’t anything much here to aggrandize its drama. Doesn’t have a great screenplay to make things better either. While Judi Dench plays her character very convincingly, Ali Fazal‘s portrayal of Abdul becomes very monotonous. Drama doesn’t evoke even a morsel of emotion.

Even though Victoria and Abdul movie is conjured up in a way so as to elicit pity for a character that was ripped straight from history, the depiction, however, fails to make you actually care.

Direction of Victoria and Abdul Movie

To this date, I still marvel at Stephen Frears phenomenon Philomena. There was so much heart in the flick. I was surprised at how it all went missing in Victoria and Abdul Movie. There weren’t words left to marvel, and Stephen fails to reignite his old magic.

Judi Dench as Victoria in Victoria and Abdul Movie

He tries to keep humour intact for the most part of the movie, but when the time comes to show some real drama, the movie becomes really thin.

Ali Fazal’s role has been provided with such fewer dialogues that you can’t take that man seriously. He becomes irritating at times when all he could manage to say is:

Whatever your Majesty wants.

You don’t see real concern on his face, but brows that constantly seem to be saying “I am enjoying all the grandeur.” Even though it is a tad true, you want to see his character genuinely rooting for whatever worried the queen. But you sense a weird disconnect. You find him imparting bookish knowledge to a soul who might have already at some point come across such things before. What was crucial there was the gradual build-up of a proper connection, which we see, quite frankly, missing.

The Romantic Link-up

While Stephen Frears does his best not to slap a name to the relation Victoria shared with Abdul, in a way, he somehow does. There are some instances where Victoria is shown swooning over Abdul. Why can’t we think of Abdul as a good friend, a confidant in whom she confided all the things she felt? Whilst the relationship shown between the two is joyfully affectionate, it balances itself precariously on a thin blade of dubitation.

Life is like a carpet…The skill of a carpet is to bring all the different threads together and make something we can all stand on.

Then again Frears could have done that to leave the audience thinking as to how easily a mind wanders, forcing you to walk in the shoes of the spectating world that walked around the main characters. You too were forced to think something might or might not have been there. It’s the gossip world we live in, and it is hard to escape it when important personalities are concerned.

The Lack of Chemistry

Friendship or not, there is an apparent lack of chemistry that will fill you with disinterest. Whilst Judi Dench plays her part just right, Ali Fazal feels like he is constantly moving in with indifference. He makes lesser eye contact, doesn’t really listen to what she has to say, and appears like he doesn’t care. Quite frankly, playing the exact opposite of what his role demanded.

victoria and abdul movie still

I think it has something to do with the screenplay when you can’t write enough gratitude or can’t properly elaborate the issues Victoria faced, or even get a snappy witty response from Abdul or even a mere well empathizing nod of understanding.

Abdul was an interesting man, the precise reason why Queen Victoria was always so happy with him around, and bestowed him with all the riches. But we don’t see him as an interesting guy. His character was clearly not fabricated properly.

Berti the Son

Personifying a combination of all the jealousy and the malice is Berti, a necessary villainous element in the tale. Berti played by Eddie Izzard, the son of Victoria, is shown in a despicable light.

Whilst his dialogues might have been theatricalized for theatrics, the movie deliberately blemishes a character to shine the light brightly on its protagonist.

Berti: Don’t you see mama? He’s using his position for his own gain.
Victoria: How does that make him any different from you?

The movie makes a villain out of him placing him in the vanguard desperate to renounce Abdul, the Munshi, of all his rights. The rest of the cast assist him beautifully to show Victoria what she failed to see blinded by all the adoration and respect she had for Abdul.

The Good

While the movie had many flaws, it isn’t really bad either. Victoria and Abdul movie surges in like a wave, goes up and down occasionally pressing in melodrama showing what grandeur is from the eyes of a man who hasn’t seen anything grand before. That’s a perfect way to show the true value of something.

Victoria and Abdul Movie Munshi and Queen

The flick is not mawkish which would have killed it for many viewers, even though it doesn’t use enough drama. The best thing is that it shows all the pointlessness of daily chores that the then queen was forced to go through. In a way, it forces us to reflect on our very futility in vanity.

Oh to be by oneself, in a simple, rudimentary existence.

People born royal often end up hating materialistic things because they have that aplenty. They are looking for contrasting things, the reason why Abdul was picked almost immediately.

Also, the fact that the movie starts triumphantly by basing itself upon the sheer fact of not looking the queen in her eyes, which was in fact, something that the queen longed for. It is almost screaming to say that she wants people to be like people, looking into each other’s eyes as if peeking into one’s soul.

Listen little drops and give yourself up without regret. You will return to the great sea.

You can order Victoria and Abdul movie from here:

The Final Verdict

The contrast of a queen and servant is amazing. For a man to stand up on a pedestal next to that of a queen, it takes more than mere luck. The movie fails to show that yes, but it wouldn’t be wrong to say that they pose a pretty picture together. The disparity is what dreams are made of. It leaves your jaws wide open like Abdul staring at the lofty artistic ceilings and secretly wishing himself to be a part of it.

If you somehow focus on just the story it has a great storyline but not a great plot. Only a good direction and striking screenplay could have turned it into a movie we all would have wanted. You strike out some apparent issues, focus on the story sans Fazal’s portrayal of Abdul, and you realize it had content capable of becoming salient.

I guess it’s just not the best of ways to tell a story.

You can check out our other reviews of movies released in 2017 as well.

You can check out the trailer of Victoria and Abdul movie here:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children Review (2016) | Fantastic Plot

Tim Burton‘s knack for the queer continues. This time he picks up Ransom Riggs‘s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children off the shelves. But the big question is he able to deliver a proper literary adaptation? The answer is not quite. I would say Miss Peregrine ends up becoming a tad unremarkable for its remarkable tale. However, its story can’t be overlooked either. If you pay heed to the plot of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, you will realize that it takes one hell of an imagination to think something so beautiful! For that I can’t thank Ransom Rigg enough.

Plot of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Spoilers Ahead)

If you take the beautiful plot of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children into account, you will be surprised to know how intriguing its story-line is. It skims on the surface of time loops that is an adventurous topic per se. Jake, played by the meek mien of Asa Butterfield, is visiting his grandfather Abe who used to babysit him when he was young.

Grandfather Abe

Abe would tell him stories about peculiar children showing him photographs that would tingle his senses. In his story a Lady Peregrine, who could turn into a bird (Peregrine good guess there!), used to take care of the children with strange mutant like abilities in a huge house. However, growing up, Jake came to believe, all his stories were nothing but sham. Lost faith in his Grampa’s vision, he ends up going aloof from him.

still of the peculiar children in miss peregrine movie

Once when paying his Grampa a visit, he encounters a strange man standing in the middle of the road, some blocks ahead of Grampa’s abode. Clueless he moves on. On reaching there, he finds his grandfather dead and without his eyes. Before dying Abe asks Jake about a bird, a loop and the year 1940. Confused Jake fails to understand, when he finds a gargantuan tentacled beast in the woods. Aftermath, he ends up in therapy.

Visiting Cairnholm Island

His constant struggle with what his grandfather was trying to tell him, compels him to visit an island called Cairnholm to look for clues. He coaxes his father into taking him there. Jake finds the house of the peculiars there, however it’s in tatters owing to a certain German bomb attack that had burnt the house to cinders in 1940. Trying to satiate his curiosity, the bold Jake ventures in to have a look. He finds photos of the children that confirms his Grandfather’s stories. But then out of the blue he finds them all alive. Scared he tries to run, but ends up knocking himself out.

Brilliance of Time Loops

That’s when the plot of the story starts shaping up too. On waking up, and realizing they were for real he follows the children to a cave. Unknowingly, he enters a time loop that takes him to 1940. He finds the Peculiar Home intact. That’s when he gets to meet the gorgeous Peregrine lady played by Eva Green. Miss Peregrine is an Ymbryne who can manipulate time. She has, along with her children, taken refuge in a time loop that she had created moments before the bomb attack.

still of eva green as miss peregrine in miss peregrine's home for peculiar children

The beauty of this very concept lies in its surreal poetry. Every single day living the same life over and over again, knowing everyday is going to end with that same wretched bomb dropping from the sky. Every single day goes by without them ageing, in constant fear of being discovered, and trying to hide under the blankets of time. Such a beautiful thought! But unfortunately, Tim Burton doesn’t milk this enough. The beauty of its poesy disappears along with its constantly running frames. You can’t help but blame the movie’s sped up editing for it.

Dark Antagonists

Like any yarn, galloping towards a direction, we are introduced to elements of perversion here as well. They are called Hollowgasts or simply Hollows, people who became monsters as a result of an experiment gone wrong. Misshapen they can’t be seen with naked eyes (unless you are Jake or Abe of course). Hollows hunt for peculiars as that’s their only chance to become a tad normal. They are known as Wights. Barron is the head of the wights who has been trying to hunt down more Ymbrynes to continue his experiments of immortality.

still of a hollowgast or hollow in miss peregrine movie

The real tension begins when Mr. Barron follows Jake to their timeloop who is then followed up by a ghastly Hollowgaust. Tim Burton uses peculiar children’s abilities to help each other out from that situation. A bomb drops and their loop forever shuts down.

It is then when Jake and the other peculiars decide to save Miss Peregrine and other Ymbrynes from the clutches of the evil wights. That becomes the sole theme of the movie afterwards.

You can pre-order Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar children here:

Major Drawbacks

The first obvious one was Shelly, the non-peculiar. Her reaction when she finds oddity going on in the real world is not what we expect. It is as if Tim Burton has taken it for granted that everybody is okay with a tinge of eccentricity. I mean, if I was there, I would have first freaked out. The abnormal absent reaction of Shelly will make you think,

“Is she for real?”

Then moving on to Miss Peregrine’s character. To be really candid, Eva Green wasn’t really fit for the role. Okay, she does bring a rare sense of grandeur to her character but was that really enough? Her portrayal was very unconvincing and forgetful. Could it be because of the limited screen-time she had?

There was nothing motherly about her portrayal, if she was supposed to be the caretaker of those children. Somehow I felt a stronger character was supposed to be the call of the hour that no one took. The script demanded someone powerful like Helena Bonham Carter, Meryl Streep or Emma Thompson for that to matter.

Burton’s Bleak Time Loop Representation

With time loop being one of the major driving forces of the tale, Burton’s depiction ends up becoming really bland. Tim Burton’s loops are empty. They come and go at odd hours without packing in much theatrics which ebbs its colossal import. At a time where the ending fight should have mattered the most, the backcloth score of a carnival makes that huge showdown a laughable affair.

Samuel Jackson plays a non-serious villain trying to introduce some humour through his acts. He is alright actually. He makes himself less scary even though he looks terrifying. The Whites of the Wights ( their eyes) were enough to terrorize little kids who had come thinking it was a Disney movie.

still of Samuel Jackson as Baron in Miss Peregrine

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children isn’t really dark. But there are dark elements in the tale nevertheless that are trying real hard to throw in different angles. But the depiction of it all ends up becoming more fun than gloomy. What makes it so is not only just the odd placement of music by Matthew Margeson and Michael Higham but also its less terrorizing banal acts. You can also count both stop motion animation and the CGI of the movie in whilst judging it.

The Final Verdict

To drop the final gavel on this, I would say it is an enjoyable ride nevertheless. However I do wish to see a perceptive TV series made on Ransom Rigg’s book, to capture the beauty of its ravishing story in pensive time frames.

Having trouble understanding the time loops in Miss Peregrine movie? Read our article on: Miss Peregrine Movie Explained

Check out the trailer of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children here: