Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
murder in the Bible
Kenneth Branagh … Hercule Poirot
Johnny Depp … Ratchett
Daisy Ridley … Mary Debenham
Willem Dafoe … Gerhard Hardman
Michelle Pfeiffer … Mrs. Hubbard
Penélope Cruz … Pilar Estravados
Judi Dench … Princess Dragomiroff
Josh Gad … Hector MacQueen
Marwan Kenzari … Pierre Michel
Lucy Boynton … Countess Andrenyi
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|Director||Kenneth Branagh—“Cinderella” (2015), “Thor” (2011), “Henry V” (1989)|
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|Distributor||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
“Everyone is a suspect”
Hercule Poirot just happens to be one of the world’s greatest detectives. His knack for never missing a detail, a clue, or give-away has made him one of the most sought after investigators across the globe. While returning from finishing up an investigation at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, Detective Poirot receives an urgent telegram to return to London to investigate a case there. He asks to receive transportation arrangements on board the Orient Express.
Once on board, Poirot is approached by an underhanded man named Mr. Samuel Ratchet (Johnny Depp). Mr. Ratchett confides with Poirot, stating he believes that someone is out to kill him. Ratchett wishes to hire Detective Poirot to serve as his bodyguard. Poirot refuses, even after Ratchet tries to bribe Poirot several times.
Later that evening Ratchett retires to his cabin. An avalanche occurs, and the train comes to a stop. A loud scream is heard throughout the hallway. When everyone awakes, they discover that Mr. Ratchett has been murdered. However, as Poirot, notices, there are an abundance of clues that do not make any sense at the crime scene: knife wounds that are inconsistent, a rag with chloroform, an open window, etc.
There are 13 possible suspects, and all of them had the means and the motive to kill Mr. Ratchett. As a sense of paranoia begins to build among the passengers, will Detective Poirot have what it takes to solve this case, or will he become a victim of his own investigation?
First I must mention that I have not seen the 1974 original “Murder on the Orient Express,” nor have I read the original Agatha Christie novel. So, my overall perspective on this film is based on seeing the film with “fresh eyes” and no preconceptions or comparisons.
What originally interested me in this film was not the cast lineup (Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, etc.), which, to their credit, give some-pretty solid performances, but rather the appeal for me was the opportunity to watch a good old-fashioned down-to-earth mystery thriller—a classic “whodunnit” scenario without the need for serial killer crime sprees that involve graphic images as displayed in so many of today’s television shows and movies (like the recent “The Snowman” movie) or mysteries that contain side relationships or scenarios between main characters that have nothing to do with the actual mystery.
“…Orient Express” reminds me a lot of the board game “Clue”: you sit down with the crime scene, you gather the evidence, make your predictions, and discover the killer… nothing more.
Cinematically, this film has its pluses and minuses. Although the performances are fairly solid by most of this all star cast, there are so many of them that none receive sufficient screen time. This was a slight disappoinment for me. The plot is strong, but it moves VERY quickly, and if you are not careful—especially if you are unfamiliar with the book or the original film—there are a lot of complex connections, backstories and predictions about the suspects. You will likely miss some of it, as I certainly did.
The overall setting and effects are absolutely amazing. The details of the inside of the train and even the surrounding European mountains are breathtaking, when they appear.
Here is a list of the some of the objectionable content to be aware of in this film:
Profanity/Language: The count is as follows: G*d-d**n (2), Good G*d (1), My G*d (1), G*d (1), d**n (4), and h*ll (4). Someone mentions they know what it feels like to have someone in their bedroom (an innuendo). There are a few racial slurs uttered by characters. The word “Hebe” is used for Jew, and someone asks why they aren’t dead yet (the time period is during the rise of the Nazis). The word Kraut (the derogatory version) is used referring to Germans, and blacks—“A guinea's a guinea.”
Violence: A thief runs into Poirot’s cane sticking out of the Wailing Wall and falls. A woman hits a man who tries to grab her bags. One character violently attacks people who try to take a picture of him. We see an overhead shot of Ratchett’s dead body with some blood coming from his chest. There is a flashback involving a kidnapping of a child, and we witness the reactions of the parents and hear that the mother (with her unborn child) committied suicide, and so did the father (nothing is shown). Poirot and a figure fall through a train trestle. We see one character with a knife in their back. Poirot is kicked out a train compartment. A character has a door slammed into him. A man is shot in the shoulder, and he holds the wound, and we see some blood on his hand. One character is hit over the head with a pistol. There are flashbacks to the kidnapping of the child (mentioned earlier), as well as to the stabbing of Ratchett by the murderer.
Sex: A character asks for a place where he and a young woman (a prostitute) can have a place alone for 20 minutes to come to some sort of agreement. A woman mentions she has to have certain “needs” met. There are references to different rendezvous locations for sex.
Other: Characters are seen drinking alcohol. There are a couple characters who are addicted to barbital (a barbiturate drug)—or simply use it.
One of the central themes that “Orient Express” focuses on (at least in this version) is the topic of “revenge vs. justice.” Without giving too much of the ending away (no spoilers, I promise), the murderer’s motive for killing Ratchett was to avenge a crime that had been committed many years before. The murderer is so convincing that even Poirot has to stop and think about for a moment.
So I ask you this, brothers and sisters, when has it ever been OUR right to take matters into our own hands? Is not our God, the God of all Creation? Is He not all knowing? Is His plan not perfect? Is His TIMING not PERFECT? His righteousness is just! Only God can decide who deserves punishment and who deserves redemption, not us.
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” —1 Peter 3:9
For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” —Hebrews 10:30
What is the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD? Answer
What is “the fear of the Lord”? and Why is it important? Answer
What is HUMILITY? Answer
Love of God—including answer to the question: Is it really true that God hates the sin, but loves the sinner?
When it comes to justice, be patient. Speaking from personal experience, I know what it’s like when it feels as if the world is looking down on you and you feel you’re being stepped on. If you are a true follower of Christ, God is with you and works on your behalf. His plan is just and good. And when we are wronged, He is by our side, standing by us, fighting for us, with plans to prosper us, if we humbly seek Him in all things.
“Murder On the Orient Express” is an interesting take on a classic “whodunit” train-ride mystery—full of paranoia, suspense, and some relatively strong performances and solid filmmaking. With the exception of some violence (which is relatively tame by today’s standards and some language (and some minor sexual dialog), is definitely one of less objectionable movie choices for the holiday season for teens and adults (but not kids).
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.