Murder on the Orient Express [movie reaction]

"The scales of justice cannot be evenly weighed." -Hercule Poirot

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) is a movie adaptation of Agatha Christie's 1934 novel of the same name. Christie is a legendary writer in the mystery genre. I've only read one of her novels before, And then there were none. It was a memorable read, it keeps you guessing until the last page and the conclusion was unexpected.

The star of this movie is Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), a Belgian detective who just might be the "best detective in the world." He is one of Christie's well-known characters and has appeared in many of her novels and other media adaptations. In the movie, Poirot had eccentricities you would expect from a detective character. He's obsessive-compulsive, observant, and logical.

The movie begins in Jerusalem, where Poirot solves the case of a stolen artifact. Three suspects come up: a Catholic Priest, a Jewish Rabbi, and a Muslim Imam. He catches the thief and heads to Istanbul for a vacation. Once there, he receives an urgent order to return to London because of another case to solve.

He boards the train to London with other characters. A suspicious man named Samuel Ratchett tries to convince Poirot to work for him, saying that "there are people after him". Poirot refuses. The train then travels through picturesque but treacherous snowy mountains. The train gets stuck when an avalanche falls, and soon they find the stabbed and bloody corpse of Samuel Ratchett in his cabin. The murderer could be anyone aboard the train.

The possible suspects are: an old rich widow, a governess, a count, a professor, a princess and her maid, a doctor, a missionary, Mr. Ratchett's assistant, the train steward, a butler, the salesman, and the train owner. They seemed to be random passengers who took the train by chance, but Poirot soon finds out that each of them is not what they seemed. Those who looked like good people turned out to be liars, and those who gave a bad first impression also had hearts.

The victim, Samuel Ratchett, isn't innocent either. Poirot realizes that he was involved in a crime that started a chain of events that led to the death of a family. Soon, he finds out that all of these passengers are somewhat related to each other and to Ratchett. Poirot, who is confident in his ability to solve it, is now doubting himself and everyone on the train.

I don't want to spoil the ending but it doesn't end how you would expect a murder mystery to end. We expect the detective to solve the puzzle, point out the criminal to deliver justice. The mystery gets solved, but we are still left with unsettling moral questions.

At the beginning of the movie, Hercule Poirot said that "There is right. There is wrong. There is nothing in between." His belief will be challenged in trying to solve the murder. After the movie, we are also left with questions ourselves: what do we really consider right and wrong? Where do we get justice when the law doesn't give it fairly?

While I'm not really crazy about the film, I like its cinematography. The setting is beautiful but bleak. Most of the movie is shot inside the confined space of a train, and there are many smart camera angles all throughout that makes the most of the small space. We are transported back to 1930s and get to experience a first-class train ride even through a movie. While Hercule Poirot was entertaining, or they tried to make him, I wasn't emotionally invested in him. He's important in the story, but I felt that the other characters really stood out.

The story ends with Poirot going off the train to another mission in Egypt, while the Orient Express moves on to its destination, to the golden sunset amidst the cold dreary snow. The train seemed to have left with a heavy heart. Everyone who will leave the Orient Express once it reaches London will not be the same persons who have gone in. You will also leave the theater feeling unsettled. What would you have done if you were one of them, anyway?

Here's the trailer with a sneak peek at all the interesting suspects:

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