Murder on the Orient Express (2017 film)

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Murder on the Orient Express
Murder on the Orient Express teaser poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKenneth Branagh
Produced by
Screenplay byMichael Green
Based onMurder on the Orient Express
by Agatha Christie
Starring
Music byPatrick Doyle
CinematographyHaris Zambarloukos
Edited byMick Audsley
Production
companies
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 2, 2017 (2017-11-02) (Royal Albert Hall)
  • November 10, 2017 (2017-11-10) (United States)
Running time
114 minutes[3]
Countries
LanguageEnglish
Budget$55 million[5]
Box office$352.8 million[5]

Murder on the Orient Express is a 2017 American mystery thriller 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, William 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.[6] The plot follows Poirot, a world-renowned detective, as he investigates a murder on the luxury Orient Express train service 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 65 mm film cameras. Murder on the Orient Express had its world premiere on November 2, 2017 at the 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.[7] The film grossed over $351 million worldwide and received mixed to positive reviews from critics, with praise for the cast's performances and the production values, but some criticism for the screenplay and for not adding anything new to previous adaptations.

A sequel, Death on the Nile, is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on September 17, 2021.

Plot[edit]

In 1934, renowned Belgian detective Hercule Poirot solves a theft at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Poirot has OCD, seeks balance in life, and considers his case-solving ability to spot lies a curse. His friend Bouc, the nephew of the director of the luxury Orient Express train service, arranges a bunk for him to return to London. Poirot boards the train with Bouc and thirteen other Passengers: American widow Caroline Hubbard, American businessman Edward Ratchett, with his English manservant Edward Masterman and secretary/translator Hector McQueen; elderly Russian Princess Natalia Dragomiroff and her German maid Hildegarde Schmidt; Hungarian diplomat Count Rudolf Andrenyi and his wife Elena; Medical Doctor John Arbuthnot; Mary Debenham, a teacher; Pilar Estravados, a Spanish missionary; Cuban-American car salesman Biniamino Marquez; and Gerhard Hardman, an Austrian university professor.

Ratchett offers to hire Poirot to be his bodyguard during the three-day journey, having received anonymous threatening letters. Poirot refuses upon learning that he is a con artist. That night, Poirot hears noises coming from Ratchett's compartment, and 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 has been murdered, stabbed a dozen times. Poirot and Bouc investigate the passengers as repairs begin. Evidence indicates that Ratchett was murdered by one person who dealt several blows, and Mrs. Hubbard claims that a man was 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. Though the family paid the ransom, Daisy was murdered. Ratchett's true identity is revealed: he was John Cassetti, Daisy's kidnapper and killer. The shock of her death caused her mother Sonia to suffer a fatal miscarriage; her father, Colonel John Armstrong, committed suicide shortly after. The family's nursemaid Susanne was wrongly suspected of complicity, leading to her arrest 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 red kimono is later found—in Poirot's own suitcase and the conductor's uniform is found in the cabin of one of the testifying passengers. 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 Debenham, Poirot is shot in the shoulder by Dr Arbuthnot, who claims responsibility for the murder, but Bouc stops him from killing Poirot. Poirot realizes that Arbuthnot—a doctor and former army sniper—never meant to kill him.

Poirot confronts the suspects outside the train, offering 2 theories of how Cassetti died. The first is simple but does not meet all of the facts: An agent of Ratchett's enemies 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:

  • MacQueen's father was the district attorney for the kidnapping case, who prosecuted Susanne and sent her to prison, only for his career to be destroyed when the truth was discovered after her suicide
  • Masterman, was Colonel Armstrong's batman during the war, and later his valet, who also acted as butler to the Armstrong household
  • Dr. Arbuthnot was Colonel Armstrong's comrade and best friend
  • Countess Andrenyi (née Goldenberg) was Sonia Armstrong's sister and Daisy's aunt
  • Count Andrenyi was Sonia's brother-in-law
  • Princess Dragomiroff was Sonia's godmother, and a friend of her mother
  • Ms. Debenham was Sonia's secretary and Daisy's governess
  • Schmidt was the Armstrong family's cook
  • Marquez was the Armstrong family's chauffeur
  • Estravado was Daisy's nurse
  • Hardman, whose real name is Cyrus, was a policeman in love with Susanne
  • Pierre Michel, the train's conductor, was Susanne's brother
  • Hubbard is revealed to be Linda Arden, a former stage actress and aspiring director, as well Sonia's mother and Daisy's Grandmother.

Hubbard confirms Poirot's second theory, admitting that she planned the murder and had recruited everyone else to help her. All the other passengers and Pierre Michel took turns stabbing Cassetti. Debenham 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 and her reaction confirms none of them are truly killers at heart.

With the train back on track, Poirot concludes that justice is impossible in this case, as Cassetti deserved death and none of them deserve to go to jail. For the first time, Poirot will have to live with a lie and imbalance. He presents the lone killer theory to the Yugoslavian police and they accept it, allowing the others to leave on the train. As he disembarks, a British Army messenger asks him to investigate a "murder on the bloody Nile". Poirot accepts the case.

Cast[edit]

  • Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot, a world-renowned Belgian detective and former police officer.
  • Tom Bateman as Bouc, Poirot's friend and nephew of the owner of the Orient Express.
  • Penélope Cruz as Pilar Estravados, the Armstrongs' Spanish nurse. (This character replaces the Swedish nurse, Greta Ohlsson)
  • William Dafoe as Cyrus Bethman Hardman, who initially pretends to be an Austrian university professor named Gerhard Hardman, but is later revealed to be Susanne's American lover.
  • Judi Dench as Princess Natalia Dragomiroff, Daisy's godmother and friend of Caroline.
  • Johnny Depp as Lanfranco Cassetti, alias Edward Ratchett, a famous gangster, and Daisy Armstrong's kidnapper and murderer.
  • Josh Gad as Hector MacQueen, Ratchett's secretary who was devoted to Sonia.
  • Derek Jacobi as Edward Henry Masterman, Ratchett's valet and butler. Mr. Armstrong's former valet.
  • Leslie Odom Jr. as Dr. Arbuthnot, Mary's secret lover, who's also a doctor and former army sniper. Mr. Armstrong's close friend. (This character is an amalgamation of two characters from the novel, Col. Arbuthnot & Dr. Constantine.)
  • Michelle Pfeiffer as Linda Arden, Sonia's mother and Daisy's grandmother.
  • Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham, Sonia's personal secretary and Daisy's governess.
  • Marwan Kenzari as Pierre Michel, the conductor and brother of Susanne, who hanged herself in prison after being wrongly accused of killing Daisy. In the novel, she threw herself out a window.
  • Olivia Colman as Hildegarde Schmidt, Natalia's maid and the Armstrong's cook.
  • Lucy Boynton as Countess Helena Andrenyi, Sonia's younger sister.
  • Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Biniamino Marquez, a car salesman and the Armstrong's chauffeur. (This character replaces Antonio Foscarelli.)
  • Sergei Polunin as Count Rudolph Andrenyi, Helena's husband.
  • Phil Dunster as Col. John Armstrong, Daisy's father.
  • Miranda Raison as Sonia Armstrong, Daisy's mother.

Production[edit]

20th Century Fox announced the project in December 2013.[8] Michael Green wrote the screenplay for a new film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express.[9] On June 16, 2015, it was reported Fox was in talks with Kenneth Branagh to direct.[10] On November 20, 2015, it was announced that Branagh would both direct the film and star in the role of detective Hercule Poirot.[11] He later said that he "enjoyed finding the sort of obsessive-compulsive in [Poirot] rather than the dandy."[12]

In June 2016, Angelina Jolie entered into "talks" to join the cast of the film, in the role of Mrs. Caroline Hubbard.[13] However, it was later reported that Jolie had passed on the role and that Charlize Theron, among others, was in consideration for the role.[14] In August 2016, Leslie Odom Jr. joined the cast.[15] In September 2016, Tom Bateman, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Michael Peña, Judi Dench, Lucy Boynton and Derek Jacobi joined the cast.[16][17][18] In October 2016, Josh Gad and Marwan Kenzari joined the cast.[19][20] In November 2016, Penélope Cruz joined the cast.[21] In December 2016, Sergei Polunin joined the cast.[22] In January 2017, William Dafoe and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo joined the cast with the latter replacing Peña, who had dropped out of the project.[23][24]

Principal photography on the film began on November 22, 2016, in the United Kingdom,[25][26] 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.[27] The two were among the very few to be shot on 65 mm film since Branagh's Hamlet in 1996, and the only ones released in 2017.[1][2] 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.[28]

Release[edit]

A first look at the film and cast was released on May 3, 2017, in an exclusive article by Entertainment Weekly.[29]

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.[30] The film was released on digital HD on February 20, 2018, and on Ultra HD Blu-ray, DVD and Blu-ray on February 27, 2018.[citation needed]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Murder on the Orient Express grossed $102.8 million in North America, and $250 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $352.8 million, against a production budget of $55 million.[5]

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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 60% based on 295 reviews, with an average rating of 6.10/10. 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."[34] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 52 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[35] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[32]

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."[36] 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."[37] 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."[38] 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."[39] 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".[40]

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."[41] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone found that there were many dull moments and that the film was a needless remake.[42] Richard Roeper of the 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."[43] 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."[44] 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."[45]

Accolades[edit]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(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 [46]
Art Directors Guild Awards January 27, 2018 Excellence in Production Design for a Period Film Jim Clay Nominated [47]
Costume Designers Guild February 20, 2018 Excellence in Period Film Alexandra Byrne Nominated [48]
Critics' Choice Awards January 11, 2018 Best Production Design Jim Clay & Rebecca Alleway Nominated [49]
[50]
Empire Awards March 18, 2018 Best Make-up and Hairstyling Murder on the Orient Express Nominated [51]
[52]
Houston Film Critics Society December 12, 2017 Best Original Song "Never Forget" Nominated [53]
Las Vegas Film Critics Society December 18, 2017 Best Costume Design Alexandra Byrne Runner-up [54]
London Film Critics Circle January 28, 2017 British/Irish Actress of the Year Judi Dench Nominated [55]
Phoenix Critics Circle December 15, 2017 Best Mystery or Thriller Film Murder on the Orient Express Nominated [56]
Phoenix Film Critics Society December 19, 2017 Best Original Score Patrick Doyle Nominated [57]
Best Costume Design Alexandra Byrne Nominated
Best Production Design Jim Clay Nominated
Satellite Awards February 11, 2018 Best Costume Design Alexandra Byrne Nominated [58]
Saturn Awards June 27, 2018 Best Thriller Film Murder on the Orient Express Nominated [59]
Seattle Film Critics Society December 18, 2017 Best Production Design Jim Clay & Rebecca Alleway Nominated [60]
Teen Choice Awards August 12, 2018 Choice Drama Murder on the Orient Express Nominated [61]
Choice Drama Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Nominated
Choice Drama Actress Daisy Ridley Nominated

Sequel[edit]

In 2015, Christie's great-grandson James Prichard, chairman of Agatha Christie Limited., expressed enthusiasm for sequels, citing the positive collaboration with Kenneth Branagh and the production team.[11] In May 2017, Branagh expressed interest in further installments if the film were successful.[62] On November 20, 2017, 20th Century Fox announced that a sequel, Death on the Nile, based on the 1937 novel of the same name, was in active development, with Michael Green, screenwriter of the first film, returning to write the screenplay. 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:[63]

"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."[63]

In February 2018, Fox scheduled Death on the Nile for release on November 8, 2019, with Branagh officially signed to direct and reprise the role of Hercule Poirot.[64] Later, Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer joined the cast,[65] followed by Annette Bening as the new character Euphemia,[66] Letitia Wright[67] and Sophie Okonedo as well as Russell Brand, Rose Leslie and Ali Fazal as a racebent role, played by George Kennedy in the 1978 film.[68][69][70][71] Apart from that version, Christie's book of the same name had been adapted for a 2004 episode of the television series Agatha Christie's Poirot before, making Branagh's film the third screen adaption.

Furthermore, actresses Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French were announced to reunite in the film,[72] with Tom Bateman returning as Bouc as well.[73] Following the casting of Jodie Comer, she dropped out due to scheduling conflicts and was replaced by Emma Mackey.[74] Principal photography started on September 30, 2019, at Longcross Studios in Surrey, England and was later moved to Morocco. A boat was built as well as a recreation of the Temple of Abu Simbel.[75] The Tiffany Yellow Diamond was also used for the movie,[76] which wrapped production around Christmas of the same year.[77] Patrick Doyle returned to compose the music, frequently working on Branagh's projects.[78] A teaser trailer was released on August 19, during Good Morning, America.[79]

Death On The Nile underwent several delays, due in part to Disney's acquisition of 20th Century Fox and the COVID-19 pandemic, the film is currently scheduled for theatrical release on September 17, 2021.[80]

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