Moustache on the Orient Express

Kenneth Branagh’s take on Hercule Poirot gets mixed reviews but is a sumptuous ride

By Amit Roy
  • Published 16.11.17

The reviews for the new Agatha Christie blockbuster, Murder on the Orient Express, have been mixed, ranging from “a gloriously sumptuous visual feast” (Radio Times) to “its main fresh twist is to Poirot’s moustache, which practically becomes a character in its own right” (Daily Mail) and “this film never gets up a head of steam” (Guardian).

Nevertheless, it is fun family viewing, with some breathtaking scenes as the Simplon-Orient Express puffs its way at night through snow covered mountains on its three-day journey between Istanbul and Paris before it is derailed and left hanging heart-stoppingly over a gorge by an avalanche.

This is when the murderer strikes, stabbing businessman Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp) 12 times, leaving 
Hercule Poirot to work out whether the killer got on board and slipped away after committing the dastardly deed, 
or is among the dozen other passengers on board.

The fastidious Belgian detective with the little grey cells — he keeps telling juniors to “straighten your tie” — is played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directs the film and is a producer, alongside a number of people, including one Aditya Sood.
The film is due to be released in India on November 24.

The all-star ensemble cast includes Tom Bateman, Lucy Boynton, Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Manuel Garcia Rulfo, Derek Jacobi, Marwan Kenzari, Leslie Odom Jr, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sergei Polunin and Daisy Ridley. And also a Nina Kumar as a Turkish merchant.

Poirot soon divines that Ratchett’s real identity as gangster Lanfranco Cassetti who had fled the US after kidnapping three year-old heiress Daisy Armstrong for a ransom, but killing the child anyway after collecting 
the money. 

Poirot also discovers all on board are linked in some way to the Armstrong case.

Agatha Christie, an avid reader of the crime pages of newspapers, based the plot in her novel, which was published in 1934, on the actual kidnapping and murder of 20-month old Charles Lindbergh Jr. in 1932. A Bruno Richard Hauptmann was executed for the crime on April 3, 1936.

Poirot has been played in the past by David Suchet, Peter Ustinov and Albert Finney. Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted for the screen on three previous occasions, including most notably in 1974 by Sidney Lumet.

At the end of the film, Poirot is called away by “a murder on the Nile”, suggesting a sequel, Death on the Nile, is likely.