Murder on the Orient Express is a 2017 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 screen adaptation of Christie's novel, following the 1974 film, a 2001 TV film version, and a 2010 episode of the television series Agatha Christie's Poirot. The plot follows Poirot, a world-renowned detective, as he seeks to solve a murder on the famous trans-European train in the 1930s.
Principal photography began in November 2016 in the United Kingdom; it is one of the few productions in recent decades to have used 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 theatres in the United Kingdom on November 3, 2017, and in the United States on November 10, 2017, by 20th Century Fox. The film has grossed over $351 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the cast's performances and the production value, but some criticism for not adding anything new to previous adaptations and for Branagh's directorial focus on his own role to the detriment of the drama.
A sequel, titled Death on the Nile, is scheduled for a release on November 8, 2019.
|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||$351.7 million|
In 1934, famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot solves a theft at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The obsessive-compulsive—who seeks balance in life, and considers his case-solving ability to see a lie amid truth to be a curse — wants to rest in Istanbul, but must return to London for another case. His friend Bouc, director of the Simplon Orient Express, offers him a room aboard the train.
Unscrupulous businessman Edward Ratchett offers to hire Poirot as his bodyguard during the three-day journey, having received threatening letters from an unknown party, but Poirot refuses. That night, Poirot hears strange noises coming from Ratchett's compartment, and later sees someone in a red kimono running down the hallway. An avalanche derails the train's engine, stranding the passengers.
The next morning, Poirot discovers Ratchett was murdered during the night after having been stabbed a dozen times. Poirot and Bouc investigate the other passengers as repairs begin. Evidence indicates that Ratchett was murdered by one person, and Caroline Hubbard, a fellow passenger, claims that a man had been in her compartment in the night. Poirot discovers a partially burned note connecting Ratchett to the kidnapping of Daisy Armstrong, a child who was abducted from her bedroom and held for ransom. After the ransom was paid, Daisy was found murdered. Ratchett's true identity is revealed: he was John Cassetti, Daisy's kidnapper and murderer. The shock of her death caused her mother Sonia to die after giving premature birth to a stillborn baby; her father, Colonel John Armstrong, then committed suicide. The family's nursemaid Susanne was wrongly suspected of complicity, leading to her being arrested and subsequent suicide in police custody, only to be found innocent afterward.
More evidence is found, including a bloodstained handkerchief, and, in Mrs. Hubbard's compartment, the button of a conductor's uniform. The uniform is later found, as is the red kimono — in Poirot's own suitcase. Hubbard is suddenly stabbed in the back; she survives but cannot identify the culprit. Poirot discovers many of the passengers have direct connections to the Armstrong family and uncovers their hidden pasts. While interviewing governess Mary Debenham, Doctor John Arbuthnot shoots Poirot in the shoulder, claiming responsibility for the murder, but Bouc stops him from killing Poirot. Poirot realizes that Arbuthnot — a medical doctor and former army sniper — never meant to kill him.
Poirot confronts the suspects outside the train, offering two theories of how Cassetti died. The first is simple but does not meet all of the facts: A murderer disguised as a conductor boarded the train at a previous stop, murdered Cassetti, and fled at the stop as the train left. The second is more complex: with every single suspect connected to the Armstrongs, Susanne, or her trial in some way, they all had a motive against Cassetti. Poirot predicts that they acted together. Hubbard is revealed to be Linda Arden, a former stage actress and aspiring director, and Sonia Armstrong's mother.
Hubbard confirms the latter, admitting that she planned the murder and had recruited everyone else to help her. All the other passengers and the Conductor, Pierre Michel (Susanne's brother), took turns stabbing Cassetti. Mary wore the kimono, and Arbuthnot stabbed Hubbard without endangering her life, to convince Poirot of a lone killer. Poirot challenges the passengers and Michel to shoot him with a confiscated gun since he is the only one who can expose their plot; Bouc can lie, but Poirot, obsessed with truth and balance, cannot. Hubbard grabs the gun and tries to kill herself, but it is not loaded; Poirot wanted to see how the suspects would react.
With the train back on track, Poirot concludes that justice is impossible in the case, as Cassetti deserved death; for the first time, Poirot will have to live with a lie and imbalance. He presents the lone killer theory to the Yugoslavian police, allowing the others to leave on the train. As he disembarks, a British Army messenger asks him to investigate a death on the Nile. Poirot accepts the case.
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 both direct the film and star in the role of detective Hercule Poirot. He later said that he "enjoyed finding the sort of obsessive-compulsive in [Poirot] rather than the dandy."
Principal photography on the film began on November 22, 2016, in the United Kingdom, and concluded in May 2017. It used some of the same 65mm film cameras as Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, which Branagh had acted in shortly before the production. The 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. While in post-production, Branagh "was Skyped in from thousands of miles away" to watch Pfeiffer record an original song called "Never Forget" for the film's finale. "As soon as we added it on to the end of the film, it joined seamlessly and gave a moment of reflection and consideration that the film needed and wanted," said Branagh.
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 film was released on Digital HD on February 20, 2018, and on DVD and Blu-ray on February 27, 2018.
Murder on the Orient Express grossed $102.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $248.9 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $351.7 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 third 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. In its second weekend, the film took in $13.8 million (a drop of 51.9%), finishing fifth, behind Justice League, Wonder, Thor: Ragnarok and Daddy's Home 2.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 57%, based on 240 reviews, with an average rating of 6.1/10. The website'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 the film has a weighted average score of 52 out of 100, based on 45 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+, calling it "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." Josephine Livingstone of The New Republic praised the film's "stylized gorgeousness," but wrote that Branagh's change of "Poirot's fussiness ... into obsessive compulsive tendencies" was "less distinct and, ultimately, less interesting".
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 Chicago Sun-Times gave the film two and a half stars, and stated that he felt it focused too much on Poirot to the detriment of the other characters, adding, "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." Christopher Orr of The Atlantic said the film was "visually sumptuous yet otherwise inert" and summed up, "Murder on the Orient Express is not a bad movie per se, merely one that feels self-indulgent and thoroughly unnecessary."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||January 9, 2018||Remake or Sequel That Shouldn't Have Been Made||Murder on the Orient Express||Nominated|||
|Art Directors Guild Awards||January 27, 2018||Excellence in Production Design for a Period Film||Jim Clay||Nominated|||
|Costume Designers Guild||February 20, 2018||Excellence in Period Film||Alexandra Byrne||Nominated|||
|Critics' Choice Awards||January 11, 2018||Best Production Design||Jim Clay and Rebecca Alleway||Nominated||
|Empire Awards||March 18, 2018||Best Make-up and Hairstyling||Murder on the Orient Express||Nominated||
|Houston Film Critics Society||December 12, 2017||Best Original Song||"Never Forget"||Nominated|||
|Las Vegas Film Critics Society||December 18, 2017||Best Costume Design||Alexandra Byrne||Runner-up|||
|London Film Critics Circle||January 28, 2017||British/Irish Actress of the Year||Judi Dench (also for Victoria & Abdul)||Nominated|||
|Phoenix Critics Circle||December 15, 2017||Best Mystery or Thriller Film||Murder on the Orient Express||Nominated|||
|Phoenix Film Critics Society||December 19, 2017||Best Original Score||Patrick Doyle||Nominated|||
|Best Costume Design||Alexandra Byrne||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Jim Clay||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||February 11, 2018||Best Costume Design||Alexandra Byrne||Nominated|||
|Saturn Awards||June 2018||Best Thriller Film||Murder on the Orient Express||Pending|||
|Seattle Film Critics Society||December 18, 2017||Best Production Design||Jim Clay and Rebecca Alleway||Nominated|||
In 2015, Christie's great-grandson James Prichard, Chairman of Agatha Christie Ltd., expressed enthusiasm for sequels, citing the positive collaboration with Branagh and the production team. In May 2017, Branagh expressed interest in further installments if the film were successful. On November 20, 2017, 20th Century Fox announced that a sequel, based on the 1937 novel Death on the Nile, was in active development, with Michael Green, screenwriter of the first film, returning to write the screenplay. Branagh will again be both director and star.
In an interview with Associated Press in December 2017, Branagh discussed developing an adaptation of Death on the Nile with the possibility of even more films to follow, potentially creating a new "cinematic universe" of Poirot films:
"I think there are possibilities, aren't there? With 66 books and short stories and plays, she — and she often brings people together in her own books actually, so innately — she enjoyed that," he says. "You feel as though there is a world — just like with Dickens, there's a complete world that she's created — certain kinds of characters who live in her world — that I think has real possibilities."
In February 2018, Fox scheduled Death on the Nile for release on November 8, 2019 with Branagh officially signed on to direct and star.