Ticket sales of the “”Murder on the Orient Express” bursted out at $28.2 million after its release a week ago, reaching third in ticket sales over its opening weekend. While the 1974 original raked in a grand total of $26.6 million ($132 million by today’s standards) domestically and received phenomenal scores from critics and moviegoers alike, is this Kenneth Branagh remake capable of living up to its predecessor?
To give some background on the movie, Hercule Poirot is a world-renowned detective known for his sharp wit and frightening awareness for what is around him; he is also a raging perfectionist. He thrives on seclusion and has no assistant, making it clear throughout the movie that he would rather sit in peace reading Charles Dickens than make conversation with anyone on the train. His bluntness and inability to lie combined with his hermit-like nature provides the movie-goer with comic relief to a rather serious thriller.
At the onset of the film, Hercule solves the mysterious theft of a precious jewel in the Middle East using his attentiveness and honed inferential ability. When this conflict is resolved, he is to go back home and retire from detective work; to enjoy life for once. But when an old friend procures a seat for him on his train, he is set on the path to solve one more mystery. As the title and various trailers suggest, someone is murdered while the train is travelling between destinations and Hercule Poirot is put up to the challenge of finding out who did it.
*SPOILER ALERT* Material beyond this point may contain spoiler alerts pertaining to the climax and resolution of the story.
After the first night, viewers are led to believe that this will be a classic “who dun-nit?” murder mystery. However, after careful examination and uncovering of vital background information from the suspects, the plot unfolds into a complex web of backstories that connect every single person on the train to the victim, whose identity is uncovered as the kidnapper and murderer of a young girl in a case that made international news. After multiple suspects are proven innocent, a final murderer is thought to have been found. But even that doesn’t satisfy Hercule’s drive to find the full truth. In the end, the whole cast (other than the owner of the train) had taken part in the murder.
The beginning of the movie jumps between two different plotlines, essentially giving you twice the amount of background in half the time. The director does not bore you with unnecessary dialogue or anything like that. He instead builds the credibility of the main character, Hercule Poirot, through his actions, not just dialogue. He shows you his perfectionistic ideals and his aptitude for detective work, by using the smallest pieces of evidence to crack a case wide open.
As Hercule moves from suspect to suspect, the moviegoer is led to believe that each person on the train is capable and has a motive to kill Cassetti; there is no single person who can be seen as more likely to commit murder. It keeps you guessing who the killer is up until one of the last scenes. Besides that, the fact that every single person had a part in the murder and that everyone has a connection to the kidnapping and murder of the child is unique and flawlessly done.
While the movie took a spectacular spin on a typical murder mystery vibe, there were some downfalls. Because of the large number of characters involved in the plot, the director has a very short amount of time to develop each character individually. The connections between the characters and to the murderer are somewhat surface-level. If the movie was made longer, more background could be provided for each character and a deeper plot could be formed to further entice anyone watching it.
Although it only received a score of 58 percent on rotten tomatoes by critics, the movie is much better than this. And while it is nothing like the prequel before it, this movie is definitely worth seeing.