A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Murder on the Orient Express is based on Agatha Christie's classic novel. Kenneth Branagh both directs and stars as iconic detective Hercule Poirot; the rest of the star-studded cast includes Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, and more. It's a murder mystery, so you can expect violence: Guns are shown (and fired once), and there's a little blood (mostly dried, on a corpse), plus a minor stabbing and some fighting and chasing. There's a verbal description of a terrible crime, the kidnapping and death of a child. Language is very minor -- nothing stronger than "damn." A prostitute is shown and referred to in one scene, and there's a bit of flirting and innuendo. Characters drink alcohol socially on the train, and one of them appears to "need" a drink more than the others (his hands shake). Another character takes a barbiturate called Barbital and seems to be addicted. Characters smoke. The film is smart, colorful, and entertaining in a classical way, which means it may feel a little old-fashioned to some. Christie's book was previously adapted into a film in the 1970s.
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What's the story?
In MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, master detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) has just solved a case in Jerusalem and is looking forward to a vacation. Unfortunately, he's summoned to another case in London and must board the Orient Express. A boorish passenger, Ratchett (Johnny Depp), whose business appears shady, tries to hire Poirot for protection. Next thing anyone knows, Ratchett has been murdered, and there's a whole train car full of suspects. Poirot interviews them one by one, including Ratchett's secretary (Josh Gad), his valet (Derek Jacobi), a society lady (Michelle Pfeiffer), a princess (Judi Dench), a professor (Willem Dafoe), a governess (Daisy Ridley), a doctor (Leslie Odom Jr.), and a missionary (Penelope Cruz). But the more Poirot learns, the less the clues seem to add up; they even seem to contradict one another. He comes to realize that this case will lead him to question everything he knows.
Is it any good?
Branagh calls on his finest classical directing skills to make this smart, old-fashioned murder mystery into an enjoyable, great-looking entertainment, with an ensemble cast to die for. Based on the novel by Agatha Christie, Branagh's colorful, fluid Murder on the Orient Express is a worthy companion to the book's previous big-screen adaptation, Sidney Lumet's 1974 version. Best of all, Branagh directs himself in the role of the famous detective Poirot, and it's as natural a fit as his outings as Henry V and Hamlet were. Branagh finds a fascinating emotional center to the character, a certain kind of pain that drives him, rather than just being really smart. (Plus he has an amazing mustache.)
The movie takes place in a single location, but Branagh's camera moves gracefully through the narrow corridors; he never constricts or tightens for suspense purposes. He goes outside, or above, or wide, to bring all the characters together on a human level. (He also uses mirrors and windows to fascinating effect.) This isn't a traditional murder mystery, in that it's not particularly suspenseful or thrilling. Rather, it's content and mature enough to explore the reasons behind it all, to find the soul of the thing. This is a movie aimed at viewers who have a little bit of patience and who don't mind a little bit of the way things used to be.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does the movie depict drinking and drugs? Are they glamorized? Do any of the characters appear to be addicts? What indicates that?
What does the movie have to say about racism and discrimination? Which characters appear to be intolerant of characters from other cultures? How are they treated by others?
Like Poirot, do you believe that there are simple, black-and-white solutions for every problem? Why or why not?
Why do you think author Agatha Christie and her character Hercule Poirot have such enduring appeal?
- In theaters: November 10, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: February 27, 2018
- Cast: Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh
- Director: Kenneth Branagh
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence and thematic elements
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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