Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Film and Plot Synopsis

In the first of a trilogy of films based on the classic Agatha Christie books, Kenneth Branagh takes on the role of world-famous detective Hercule Poirot. Poirot is traveling onboard the Orient Express to a planned vacation, when suddenly one of the passengers is killed and the train becomes stopped in the middle of nowhere. Poirot begins investigating the murder, but soon realizes that no one is who they seem to be, including the victim. Now, Poirot must discover who the real killer is before the train reaches its destination or before anyone else is killed.

‘Murder on the Orient Express’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)In 1934, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) successfully resolves a theft investigation at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Poirot looks forward to a needed rest on a scheduled vacation in Istanbul when he is unfortunately recalled back to London for another case. Poirot’s dear friend Bouc (Tom Bateman), the director of the Simplon-route Orient Express service, arranges for Poirot to have a bunk aboard the train. Poirot boards the train and encounters an amazing cavalcade of characters including American widow Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), American businessman Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), Ratchett’s manservant Edward Masterman (Derek Jacobi), Ratchett’s secretary/translator Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), Russian Princess Natalia Dragomiroff (Judi Dench), Dragomiroff’s German maid Hildegarde Schmidt (Olivia Colman), Hungarian diplomat Count Rudolf Andrenyi (Sergei Polunin), Andrenyi’s wife Countess Helena Andrenyi (Lucy Boynton), a governess Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley), physician John Arbuthnot (Leslie Odon Jr.), a Spanish missionary Pilar Estravados (Penélope Cruz), Austrian university professor Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe) and Cuban-American car salesman Biniamino Marquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo).

Once on the train, Poirot’s reputation proceeds him. Ratchett attempts to hire the detective as his bodyguard during the three-day trip. Ratchett informs Poirot that he has received threatening letters from an unknown suspect. However, Poirot turns down Ratchett’s offer. Later that night, Poirot is awakened by strange noises coming from Ratchett’s compartment. Poirot investigates and sees someone in a red kimono running down the hallway. A short time later, an avalanche derails the train’s engine and strands the passengers in the middle of nowhere.

The next morning, Poirot discovers that Ratchett was murdered in the night. Poirot determines that the businessman was stabbed a dozen times. Poirot and Bouc take charge of the murder investigation as the engineers begin working on repairs to the train. Poirot’s initial investigation points in the direction of Ratchett being murdered by one person. Ms. Hubbard claims that a strange man had been in her compartment during the night. Poirot finds a partially burned note that connects Ratchett to the kidnapping of Daisy Armstrong, a child who was abducted from her bedroom and held for ransom. Daisy’s family paid the ransom, but the kidnappers still murdered the young girl. Daisy’s death caused her mother, Sonia (Miranda Raison), to die of shock while giving birth to a premature and stillborn baby. Daisy’s father, Colonel John Armstrong (Phil Dunster), killed himself shortly afterward. The Armstrong family’s nursemaid, Susanne, was suspected of being involved in the kidnapping. She was arrested and subsequently killed herself in jail, but ultimately, the investigation concluded that she was innocent.

Poirot determines that Ratchett’s true identity was John Cassetti, Daisy’s kidnapper and murderer. Poirot finds more evidence including a bloodstained handkerchief and a button of a conductor’s uniform within Mrs. Hubbard’s compartment. The full uniform and the red kimono are found within Poirot’s suitcase. Not long after, Mrs. Hubbard is stabbed in the back although she survives the attack. Mrs. Hubbard is unable to identify her attacker. As Poirot continues to investigate, he finds that many of the passengers all have connections back to the Armstrong family and begins to suspect that many of them have hidden pasts. During an interrogation of Ms. Debenham, Poirot is shot in the shoulder by Dr. Arbuthnot before Bouc stops him from killing Poirot. The good doctor claims responsibility for Ratchett’s murder, but Poirot suspects that he is lying as Dr. Arbuthnot was a former army sniper who could easily have killed the detective if he wanted to.

I have the advantage. I can only see the world as it should be so the imperfections stand out. Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh)

Poirot brings all the suspects outside of the train to reveal the killer. The detective offers two theories of how Ratchett was murdered. The first theory, which Poirot admits does not fit all the facts, is that the murderer disguised as a conductor boarded the train at previous stop, killed Ratchett, and then fled as the train left. Poirot’s second theory is more complex and insidious, with ties to the Armstrongs, Susanne, or Susanne’s trial in various ways. Poirot reveals that all the passengers had a motive to murder the nefarious Ratchett. Poirot reveals that Mr. MacQueen’s father was the district attorney in Susanne’s case, who was pressured into prosecuting her and sending her to prison. When her innocence was revealed, MacQueen’s father’s career was destroyed. Poirot also reveals that Masterman was Colonel Armstrong’s personal servant during the war and later worked as the butler to the Armstrong household. It is also revealed that Masterman is terminally ill. Poirot reveals that Dr. Arbuthnot served with Colonel Armstrong and was his best friend. It is also revealed that Masterman and Mrs. Debenham are lovers. Poirot reveals that Countess Andrenyi was Sonia’s sister and Daisy’s aunt making Count Andrenyi Sonia’s brother-in-law. Poirot also reveals that Princess Dragomiroff was a friend of Daisy’s grandmother and godmother to Daisy. Ms. Schmidt is revealed to have been the Armstrong’s cook while Marquez was the Armstrong’s chauffer. Ms. Debenham is revealed to have been Sonia’s secretary and Daisy’s governess while Ms. Estravados was Daisy’s nurse. Poirot reveals that Mr. Hardman’s real name is Cyrus and he is an American. He was a former policeman who was in love with Susanne before her death. The conductor of the train, Pierre Michel (Marwan Kenzari), was Susanne’s brother. Poirot also reveals that that Ms. Hubbard is actually Linda Arden, a former stage actress. She is also Sonia’s mother and Daisy’s grandmother.

Poirot accuses them all of working together to kill Ratchett, which Hubbard admits and takes credit for planning the murder. Hubbard confesses to recruiting everyone to help her in getting her revenge against Ratchett. It is revealed that all the passengers and Michel took turns stabbing Ratchett until he died. Ms. Debenham wore the kimono, and Arbuthnot stabbed Hubbard in a way that didn’t endanger her in an attempt to mislead Poirot into believing that it was a lone killer. Poirot threatens them that he will expose their plot and challenges the culprits to use the gun to silence him. Poirot informs them all that although Bouc can lie, Poirot’s obsession with the truth prevents him from doing so. Hubbard grabs the gun and attempts to kill herself, but the gun is unloaded. The ploy was Poirot’s way of determining the character of each of the culprits and finding out what they would do. Poirot is somewhat satisfied that none of the murders moved to kill him.

The tracks are cleared, and the train is then ready to leave. Poirot concludes that justice is impossible in the case because Ratchett deserved to die. For the first time in his life, Poirot concludes that he will have to live with the lie and the imbalance that it causes. When Yugoslavian police arrive, Poirot presents them with the lone killer theory and allows the culprits to leave on the train. A short time later, as he is getting off the train, a British Army messenger asks him to investigate a death on the Nile. Poirot agrees to accept the case.

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Our Rating

20th Century Fox released Murder on the Orient Express on November 10, 2017. Kenneth Branagh directed the film starring Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, and Willem Dafoe.

User Rating: 3.96 ( 4 votes)
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