Murder on the Orient Express: Entertaining But Not Exceptional

Aviv Yaacobi, Contributing Writer

Falcon Rating: 3/4

Murder on The Orient Express, directed by Kenneth Branagh and written by Michael Green, is a new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel. The cast is full of great actors: Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad…the list goes on and on. The protagonist, a Belgian private investigator named Hercule Poirot, is played by Branagh.

After a case in Jerusalem, Hercule goes to Istanbul on holiday, and there he is asked to travel to London to solve a case. During his trip on the Orient Express, an avalanche stops the train and one of the passengers is found dead. Hercule needs to find the murderer before they strike again.

Branagh plays Hercule amazingly. The viewer gets a sense that Hercule is genuinely brilliant; Branagh shows from the beginning that Hercule’s a man of morals.

Depp’s character, Edward Ratchett, offers Hercule money to keep watch on him, but Hercule refuses because Mr. Ratchett is a gangster. Even though he’s not in the movie long, Depp plays the role of a paranoid gangster very well—you grow to hate him as more about him is revealed. For example, when Hercule refuses to protect him, Mr. Ratchett just pulls a gun on him threatening him if he doesn’t take the job.

The rest of the actors play their parts successfully, too. But, as is often the case in movies based on books, not all the characters are fleshed out as evenly as they might be in print. We get a substantial amount of backstory about certain characters, but not much about others. For example, two characters appear very close to the end to play a role, and I didn’t even know they were on the train. However, considering the amount of screentime each actor gets, almost all of them played their characters convincingly.

In terms of cinematography, this movie is pretty average. One commendable decision was making flashbacks black and white, which feels appropriate for the time period of the film. The most creative shot—the moment when Hercule puts an illegible burnt letter in a lantern, revealing a message—can be seen in the trailer.

All in all, the movie is interesting. Like any good murder mystery, it gives the audience clues and red herrings about who the killer is. I do think some odd choices about balancing light and heavy tones were made with Murder on the Orient Express, but that is not a major drawback.

I haven’t read the book, so I can’t assess how the movie compares to its literary counterpart. I would say the movie will throw you for a loop a couple of times to keep you guessing who the killer could be, but based on the clues given, it is possible to deduce who is responsible. I wouldn’t say this film is a must-watch, but if you enjoy murder mysteries, give this one a try.