Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie wrote her classic Hercule Poirot whodunit in 1934. It was clearly inspired by the notorious kidnapping and murder of the Charles Lindbergh baby. This Crime of the Century occurred in 1927. With our story set on a small but luxurious train with a variety of stylish passengers, Poirot is confronted by a corpse and a host of suspects. This plot of course is irresistible and the movie we see now is at least the fifth version.

Working from a screenplay by Michael Green ("Blade Runner 2049") actor/director Kenneth Branagh works with a brilliant collection of actors to populate this suspenseful mystery (the killer is still among them).

Some of Branagh's cast:
  • Kenneth Branagh ("Dunkirk") Hercule Poirot must investigate the murder of a murderer. (That ridiculous thing is NOT Poirot's mustache!) Like Poirot, Branagh is not hampered by humility. To me, this looks for the world like a tepid vanity project.
  • Johnny Depp ("Black Mass") Edward Ratchett is an American gangster, with a scarred face and those rude, crude American manners.
  • Judi Dench ("Tulip Fever") Princess Dragomiroff is a royal pain but her companion tries her best to meet her expectations.
  • Olivia Coleman ("Broadchurch") The Princess's hardworking maid Hildegarde Schmidt can explain where the Princess was at the time the victim died.
  • Leslie Odom, Jr. ("Law & Order") Dr. Arbuthnot is positive what time the victim died. This helps narrow the field of suspects.
  • Penélope Cruz ("American Crime Story") Missionary Pilar Estravados is simply trying to arrive at her next post and save souls.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer ("Where is Kyra?") Our widow Caroline Hubbard never intended to travel alone. She makes sure everyone knows that she is on the lookout for a new man.
  • Derek Jacobi ("Last Tango in Halifax") Butler Edward Henry Masterman is the man to see about details. He is a careful man.
  • Daisy Ridley ("Star Wars") Governess Miss Mary Debenham will help Poirot as best she can, but...
  • Willem Dafoe ("John Wick") Like many of the other characters, Professor Gerhard Hardman has an odd accent.
The artistic director can take a bow for scrupulous attention to period detail; plus the locations in France and Switzerland are breathtaking. Other than those two elements, I must say that this film left me unexpectedly unmoved and untouched. Because the well-known Poirot character needs no introduction, I found the opening scenes in Jerusalem unnecessary; I could NOT for the life of me figure out what Poirot found so funny about "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens.

This PG-13 script boasts clever (but mumbled) repartee, implied sexual misbehavior, quite a bit of alcohol, and absolutely NO blowie uppie stuff, but we all know how it ends, don't we? If not, it only runs for 1 hour and 54 minutes.
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Here is a sample:
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