The Kenneth Branagh-directed film, Murder on the Orient Express, is the second film adaptation of the book by the same name (published in 1934) and written by the famed author Agatha Christie. Christie’s novel was first brought to the big screen in 1974 by the director Sidney Lumet. The first film version of the work starred a cast of Hollywood legends. Albert Finney played the beloved detective, Hercule Poirot. Finney was joined in this laudable acting ensemble by Lauren Bacall, Martin Balsam, Ingrid Bergman, Jacqueline Bisset, Sean Connery, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Perkins, John Gielgud, Michael York, and Richard Widmark.
In the 2017 version of the murder mystery, Branagh has assembled a group of performers who also occupy the highest rungs of Hollywood acting talent. This time out, Branagh plays the character of Poirot. His most well-known co-stars in this latest big screen outing are true standouts — among them, Judy Dench, Derek Jacobi, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruze, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Willem Dafoe.
Christie’s novel is among the top works of fiction of all time. Over her career, Christie authored some 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. Her first novel published was The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920. This initial work was the first appearance the detective Hercule Poirot. With sales of some 2 billion copies of her work, Christie is said to the the best-selling novelist of all time. She also authored the longest-running play in history, The Mousetrap. Born in 1890, Christie died in 1976, having lived to see the first film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express.
Christie’s plot includes — in addition to the aforementioned detective — quite a colorful cast of characters. There’s a count and countess, a gangster, the gangster’s assistant, a butler, a widow, a missionary, a professor, a princess, a maid, a governess, and a doctor, all suspects in Christie’s grand scheme. The story line, as the title indicates, follows a murder on the fabled train, and Hercule Poirot must uncover the perpetrator of the crime. The setting, as indicated in the title, is a train whose route is as legendary as is the novel itself. Christie is said to have written the book in a hotel while she was in Istanbul.
The inception of this latest screen adaptation of Christie’s work involved two simultaneous attempts by producers Mark Oordon and Simon Kinsberg to secure the film rights from Agatha Christie, Ltd., headed by Christie’s great-grandson, James Pritchard. According to the producers, the process of securing the rights covered a five-year period. Subsequently, the duo teamed with filmmaker Ridley Scott. Michael Green, a frequent collaborator of Scott, wrote this latest film adaptation.
RottenTomatoes gives the film an acceptable 65 score, while audiences have indicated a wanna-see quotient of a stellar 98.
Murder on the Orient Express runs 1 hour 54 minutes and is rated PG-13.