Murder on the Orient Express is a remake of the 1934 novel by Agatha Christie. It has a star-studded cast: Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, and Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot. Kenneth Branagh is a classically trained British actor and he also directs, as well as stars, in this movie.
For those who are new to the story, as I was, here is a little background. The story takes place in 1934 with Hercule Poirot as a famous detective with such prowess in solving murder cases that he is called to locales around the world to solve murder mysteries. The movie begins with him solving a case in Jerusalem, when Hercule is called to London to solve another. As time is of the essence, (and of course most people travelled by ship then) his friend Bouc offers him a berth on the train named Orient Express.
What I found interesting, is that the movie offers some insight into Hercule’s unique mystery solving ability. Hercule likes and needs everything to be in balance. This is evidenced by his insistence on having his breakfast eggs exactly the same size, otherwise he is unable to eat them! It is this need of balance that makes him so observant of situations—the modern-day obsessive compulsive disorder put to good use.
Of course, a murder occurs on the Orient Express; Johnny Depp’s character, Samuel Ratchett, meets an untimely demise when he is stabbed multiple times. Hercule goes into action, interviewing everyone on the train. His investigation reveals that all the passengers have a connection to a recent famous case regarding the Armstrong family. Daisy Armstrong was a child who was abducted and held for a ransom. After the ransom was paid, Daisy was found dead, which understandably devastated her parents. So much so, that her father Colonel Armstrong committed suicide after her mother died in childbirth. A tragic case that had a ripple effect through the Armstrong family and those who were connected to the family.
The Armstrong family connections become evident as Hercule investigates Samuel Ratchett’s murder. Revealing those connections and the name of the murderer would spoil the movie for those who do not know the story. The star-studded cast adds some interest for anyone who is a fan of the many well-known actors in this movie; however, for me, Judi Dench’s performance stands above the rest. She is simply so good at playing a haughty woman who views the world around her with disdain. It is a lighthearted movie that is no longer playing in the cinema. When it comes to pay for view, check it out.