Murder on the Orient Express is a 2017 American 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 adaptation of Christie's novel, following a 1974 film, a 2001 TV film, and a 2010 episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot. The plot follows Poirot, a world-renowned detective, who seeks to solve a murder on the famous European train in the 1930s.
Principal photography began in November 2016 in the United Kingdom; it is one of the few in recent decades to use 65mm film cameras. Murder on the Orient Express had its world premiere on November 2, 2017 at Royal Albert Hall in London and was released in the United States on November 10, 2017, by 20th Century Fox. The film has grossed $110 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the cast's performances and the production value, but received criticism for not adding anything new to previous adaptations.
|Murder on the Orient Express|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kenneth Branagh|
|Screenplay by||Michael Green|
|Based on||Murder on the Orient Express
by Agatha Christie
|Music by||Patrick Doyle|
|Edited by||Mick Audsley|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$120.5 million|
In the winter of 1934, Hercule Poirot, a famous Belgian detective, looks forward to taking a break from his work after solving a theft in Jerusalem. Travelling to Istanbul, Poirot meets his friend, Bouc, director of the Orient Express. Receiving a telegram from London about an impending case, Poirot must return home, with Bouc offering him a place onboard the fully booked Express. Poirot has to share a compartment on the train, but gains his own on the second night.
Poirot is approached by Samuel Ratchett, an unpleasant American businessman, to act as his bodyguard during the three-day journey as he has received threatening letters from an unknown party, but Poirot refuses. That night, Poirot hears strange noises coming from Ratchett’s compartment, and witnesses a woman in a red kimono running down the hallway. An avalanche occurs, causing the train to derail, stranding the passengers.
The next morning, Poirot learns Ratchett was murdered during the night, as he was stabbed twelve times. Poirot and Bouc investigate the murder, the latter not amongst the suspects, having slept in another carriage. Evidence indicates that Ratchett was murdered by a lone man, with one passenger, Caroline Hubbard, claiming that a man was in her compartment during the night. Poirot discovers a partially destroyed note, connecting Ratchett to the kidnapping of Daisy Armstrong, a little girl who was abducted from her bedroom and held for ransom. After the ransom was paid, Daisy was found murdered in the woods. Ratchett is identified as John Cassetti, Daisy’s kidnapper and murderer, her death causing her mother Sonia to die after giving premature birth to a stillborn baby, and her father, Colonel Armstrong was so distraught that he committed suicide shortly after. The family’s nursemaid, Susanne, was arrested, but hanged herself whilst in police custody, only to be found innocent after her death.
More evidence is found, including a bloodstained handkerchief with the letter ‘H’ on it, and the button of a conductor’s uniform found in Mrs. Hubbard’s compartment. The uniform is later found, as is the kimono, discovered in Poirot’s own suitcase. Mrs. Hubbard is stabbed in the back, but survives, unable to identify the culprit. Through interviews, Poirot discovers several of the passengers have direct connections to the Armstrong family. Whilst interviewing governess Mary Debenham, Poirot is confronted by Dr. John Arbuthnot, claiming responsibility for the murder. Arbuthnot, a former sniper, shoots Poirot in the shoulder but is later stopped and incapacitated by Bouc. Poirot realises Arbuthnot never meant to kill him.
Poirot assembles all the suspects outside the train, offering two theories to how Ratchett died. The first is simple, Poirot concluding that an assassin disguised as a conductor snuck on the train, murdered Ratchett, and fled. However, the second is more complex. Every suspect is connected to the Armstrongs, Susanne and the subsequent trial in some way. Edward Henry Masterman, Cassetti's valet, was Colonel Armstrong's batman during the war, and later his valet, who also served as butler to the Armstrong household. Dr. Arbuthnot was Colonel Armstrong's comrade and best friend. Countess Helena Andrenyi (née Goldenberg) was Sonia Armstrong's sister and Daisy's aunt. Count Ruldoph Andrenyi is Helena's husband, who loves her dearly and has had to see her struggle with the death of her sister and niece ever since. Princess Dragomiroff was Sonia Armstrong's godmother, and a friend of her mother. Miss Debenham was Daisy’s governess. Fräulein Hildegarde Schmidt was the Armstrong family's cook. Biniamino Marquez was indebted to the Armstrong family after Colonel Armstrong financed his first business. Miss Pilar Estravados, a Spanish missionary, was Daisy’s nurse. Hector MacQueen's father was the district attorney for the kidnapping case, who wrongly prosecuted Susanne for Daisy’s murder, only for his life and career to be ruined when she was found innocent after her suicide. Pierre Michel, the train's conductor, was Susanne's brother. Cyrus Hardman, Cassetti’s bodyguard who disguised himself as an Austrian scholar, was a police officer in love with Susanne. Finally: Mrs. Hubbard is, in actuality, Linda Arden (maiden name Goldenberg), the most famous tragic actress of the New York stage, and was Sonia Armstrong's mother and Daisy's grandmother. It was Mrs. Hubbard who initially gathered everyone and orchestrated the murder.
The night of the murder, they all took turns stabbing Ratchett in an act of justice. The evidence was planted by the passengers to convince Poirot of a lone killer theory. Poirot challenges the passengers to shoot him, placing his gun in front of the gathered suspects, since he is the only one who can expose their plot. Mrs. Hubbard grabs the gun but instead tries to take her own life. The gun proves to be unloaded as Poirot was wishing to see how the suspects would react.
During this time, the train is lifted back onto the track by a rescue team. Poirot concludes that there is no justice to be found in the case, and Ratchett deserved his fate. He states that, for the first time, he will have to live with imbalance. He then presents his lone killer theory to the Yugoslavian police as the correct one, allowing the suspects to leave. Poirot disembarks the train, only to be approached by a messenger, learning about a death upon the Nile, and is asked to investigate it. Poirot takes on the case as the Orient Express departs.
20th Century Fox announced the project in December 2013. Michael Green wrote the screenplay for a new film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. On June 16, 2015, it was reported Fox was in talks with Kenneth Branagh to direct. On November 20, 2015, it was announced that Branagh would direct the film and star in the role of detective Hercule Poirot. On June 10, 2016, it was reported that Angelina Jolie was in early talks to co-star in the film. Variety reported on August 4 that she would not sign on to star, while the studio was looking for other actresses like Charlize Theron. On August 17, Variety reported that Leslie Odom Jr. was in talks to join the cast in an unspecified role. On 6 September, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Tom Bateman had joined the cast as Bouc. On September 29, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Michael Peña, Derek Jacobi, and Lucy Boynton were added to the cast. On October 20, Josh Gad was cast in the film to play Hector MacQueen. On 27 October, Marwan Kenzari joined the cast as the French conductor of the train. On November 11, Penélope Cruz joined the cast in an unspecified role, later revealed to be Pilar Estravados (a Hispanic version of the novel's Swedish Greta Ohlsson, borrowing the name of a character in Hercule Poirot's Christmas). On December 5, Sergei Polunin joined the cast in an undisclosed role, later revealed to be the Count Andrenyi. On January 5, 2017, Willem Dafoe joined the cast of the film as an undercover detective. On January 9, Olivia Colman revealed that she had been cast as Princess Dragomiroff's maid. On January 25, it was revealed that Michael Peña had dropped out of the film and that Manuel Garcia-Rulfo had replaced him as Biniamino Marquez (a Cuban version of the novel's Italian Antonio Foscarelli).
Principal photography on the film began on November 22, 2016, in the United Kingdom and wrapped in May 2017. It used some of the same 65mm film cameras as Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, which Branagh had acted in shortly before this production. These two were among the very few to be shot on 65mm film since Branagh's Hamlet in 1996, and the only ones released in 2017.
Murder on the Orient Express was released in the United Kingdom on November 3, 2017 and in the United States on November 10, 2017, by 20th Century Fox. The first look at the film and cast was released on May 3 in an exclusive article by Entertainment Weekly.
As of November 18, 2017, Murder on the Orient Express has grossed $51.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $68.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $110.8 million, against a production budget of $55 million.
In the United States and Canada, Murder on the Orient Express was released alongside Daddy's Home 2, and was projected to gross around $20 million from 3,341 theaters in its opening weekend. The film made $10.9 million on its first day, including $1.6 million from Thursday night previews at 2,775 theaters. It ended up grossing $28.7 million, finishing 3rd at the box office behind holdover Thor: Ragnarok and Daddy's Home 2. 51% of the film's opening weekend audience was over the age of 35.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 58% based on 177 reviews, with an average rating of 6.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Stylish production and an all-star ensemble keep this Murder on the Orient Express from running off the rails, even if it never quite builds up to its classic predecessor's illustrious head of steam." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 52 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B+ and called the film "a lushly old-fashioned adaptation wrapped in a veritable turducken of pearls, monocles, and international movie stars." Blake Goble of Consequence of Sound said "Handsomely staged, exceptionally well-cast, and reasonably faithful, Branagh has revived Murder on the Orient Express in a highly pleasing fashion." Trace Thurman of Bloody Disgusting gave the film three and a half skulls and said "For those looking for an involving murder mystery that is respectful of its source material and filled with an all-star cast, look no further than Murder on the Orient Express." Matt Goldberg of Collider gave the film a B− calling it a "handsomely crafted production" albeit one that "falls apart at the climax of the film."
On the negative side, Matthew Jacobs of The Huffington Post was impressed by the cast but ultimately felt "Agatha Christie’s whodunit has no steam." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone found that there were many dull moments and that the film was a needless remake. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half stars, and stated that he felt the film focused too much on Poirot, to the detriment of the other characters, saying, "Never let it be said the director misses an opportunity to place his star front and center, unfortunately relegating just about everyone else in the obligatory International All-Star Cast to a paper-thin character with one or at most two defining personality traits." Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club rated the film a C+ and complained that Branagh's "erratic direction—more interested in cut glass and overhead shots than in suspicions and uncertainties—bungles both the perfect puzzle logic of the crime and its devious solution."
In 2015, James Prichard, Chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd. and Christie's great-grandson, expressed enthusiasm for sequels, citing the collaboration with Branagh and the production team. In May 2017, Branagh expressed interest in further installments if the film is a success.