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The film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s arguably most famous and widely-read novel, Murder on the Orient Express, is a 2017 film directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Tom Bateman, Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer and Daisy Ridley in pivotal roles. The plot of the film can be easily explained in one sentence-investigation of the murder of a murderer.
First Impression as a Viewer
The movie is very gripping, right from the very start until the shocking climax in the end. The introduction of characters is extremely creative and interesting as well as descriptive. The acting of the artists is commendable, as it feels like one is watching the real characters of the story come to life. As a person who has seen the movie alone and hasn’t read the book, the storyline was not very difficult to follow or complicated. Rather, the plot was so well displayed that it is one of the best murder mysteries I have ever come across.
First Impression as a Critic
The movie starts with the introduction of Hercule Poirot, the detective who features in all of Agatha Christie’s compositions and a character born from her own imagination. His persona is one that is radiated from very few people, because it is his firm belief that the world can only be seen as right or wrong, with nothing in between. Further, we meet the other characters of the story we familiarise ourselves with in a jiffy, because of the great introductions. Overall, even watching this film as a critic did not change my mind about the brilliance of the direction, storyline, visuals and strong performances.
Hercule Poirot is the protagonist of the film. He is a French-speaking Belgian and a detective by profession. It has been mentioned several times in the film that he is an extremely smart, observant and well-mannered man who is considered to be the best detective in the world. His distinct physical feature is his peculiar mustache, which is unique to him alone. Ideology wise, his belief is that the world is one of balance, wherein there can only be black and white or right and wrong. He explains that it is this ability of his that allows him to detect and solve crimes because he can not view the world if it has been placed wrongly on the scales of balance. As the events of the movie unfold and the revelation in the end about the murderers takes place, we understand the reason as to why he takes so much time in the identification of the murderer- because in this case, the murderer does not fit in the definition of his right or wrong and hence he can not see that “crack in the wall” which helps him in solving crimes.
Bouc was a light and humorous character and the owner of the Orient Express. He was the only traveller besides Poirot who was not a suspect for the murder as he was travelling with Poirot in another coach on the night of the murder.
Linda Arden aka Mrs. Hubbard is the mastermind behind the murder on the Orient Express. She is a former performer who bagged a play on the Broadway but the tragic murder of her granddaughter Daisy Armstrong and death of her daughter Sonia Armstrong completely shattered her and ended her acting career. Linda Arden is the stage name she used whilst still performing, however, it is revealed her real last name was Goldenberg. In the movie, she uses the alias of Mrs. Hubbard, an old and flirtatious woman who has been married and divorced several times. However, her real identity-Linda Arden-is broken and vengeful and viewers can not help but sympathise with this woman who has lost her everything and is putting up a facade to execute a crime born from the venom of revenge.
Ratchett aka Cassetti is the antagonist of the film. He is posing as a businessman who sells fakes to rich people throughout the world and is being hunted down by the enemies he formed in this process. However, in a turn of events, it is revealed that Ratchett is in fact Cassetti, a man who had been found guilty in the kidnapping and murder case of an infant-Daisy Armstrong but acquitted because of his wealth and status later. It is Cassetti who is found murdered on the Orient Express and Poirot investigates his death during the course of the film.
MacQueen was the secretary of Ratchett. He was a lawyer by education, not by disposition. His father was also a famous lawyer who was involved in the Armstrong case, and because of governmental pressure, had a big hand in the arrest of an innocent woman, Susanne, in the murder case. Therefore, since his father had been pressured into convicting an innocent woman, he could not bear the huge weight of guilt on his conscience and committed suicide. MacQueen was devastated by this and held Cassetti responsible for the death of his father.
Mary Debenham was a British Governess who taught Geography. She was a smart woman who was also a traveller on the train. In the past, she was the governess of Helena Goldenberg, Sonia Armstrong’s sister. She loved the Armstrong family dearly and was extremely hurt when she received news of Daisy’s murder and Sonia Armstrong’s death.
Colonel Arbuthnot was a coloured man whose wing commander and best friend was Colonel John Armstrong. Armstrong had supported Arbuthnot in joining Medical School as a man of colour and Arbuthnot could never forget all that he had done for him.
Princess Dragomiroff and Hildegarde were a mistress-maid duo. Princess Dragomiroff was Daisy Armstrong’s godmother and a dear friend of Linda Arden. On the other hand, Hildegarde was the former cook of the Armstrong family. The tragedy in the Armstrong household deeply moved both of them.
Pilar Estravados was a Spanish nun who was formerly a nurse to Daisy Armstrong and was on duty the night she was abducted. All her life, Pilar lived in guilt of being intoxicated that night and being helpless and weak in front of Cassetti.
Beddoes was posing as an employee of Ratchett, but in reality, he was another nemesis of Cassetti because he was the former batman and valet of John Armstrong. He was deeply aggrieved after the incident in the Armstrong family because he loved John Armstrong dearly.
Biniamo Marquez was a European man with a shady past who had migrated to America a few years back. He was an automobile dealer and owned three car showrooms despite being a pauper when he initially came to the country. Previously, he was the Armstrongs’ chauffer and was given a loan by John Armstrong because of which he was successful at that time.
Cyrus Hardman was a former Police Officer who posed as a German Professor and private detective. He loved Susanne, the woman who was falsely convicted in the Daisy Armstrong abduction and murder case. After witnessing this absolute humiliation of justice and death of his love, he left the police department and resolved to destroy Cassetti.
Count Andrenyi and Countess Helena Goldberg were a couple on the Orient Express travelling under diplomatic visas. After Poirot interrogates them, we learn that the Countess is in fact Sonia Armstrong’s sister and Daisy Armstrong’s aunt. She has lost her family at the hands of Cassetti and is one of the deepest hurt murderers of Cassetti. Count Andrenyi is Helena’s husband, a powerful man and an exceptional dancer. He loved Helena dearly and felt equal pain and anger as his wife for Cassetti.
Therefore, it was a planned crime executed by all passengers of the Orient Express to avenge the murder of little Daisy Armstrong, and as Pilar said- they killed the murderer of their dear Daisy because justice, “Lies buried. With Daisy,”
(Picture credits- IMDb, Shutterstock)
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