Hercule Poirot is the world’s best detective, and easily the most popular one, too. With a knack for solving impossible cases – as well as a flamboyant mustache – Poirot attracts attention wherever he goes.
Detective work, though, can be tiring, and Poirot needs a vacation. So he takes a multi-day train ride on the scenic Orient Express, confident that he will get a little rest and relaxation.
But little goes as planned. First, a rich, single woman begins hitting on him. Then, a pushy passenger makes a shocking business proposition. And – wouldn’t you know it? – someone gets murdered, just as the train derails.
Suddenly, our reclusive hero is pushed back into the spotlight, as he must determine which of the remaining 13 passengers committed the crime. He also must find the bad guy before he (or she) strikes again.
Murder on the Orient Express (PG-13) opens this weekend in a retelling of Agatha Christie’s popular novel. It is set in 1934 Europe and stars Kenneth Branagh (Dunkirk, Valkyrie) as Poirot and a host of well-known names as the passengers. The cast includes Penélope Cruz (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man), Michelle Pfeiffer (Dark Shadows), Johnny Depp (the Pirates of the Caribbean series), Josh Gad (Frozen) and Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Branagh doubles as the director.
Here is what parents should know:
1. For a murder mystery, it’s not too violent. Punches are thrown, and men fight in a restaurant. Someone is shot in the arm. We see an overhead shot of the (clothed) body with a bloodied torso, although it’s not graphic. We also hear discussion of various murder theories.
2. The language and sexuality content is low. I counted 13 coarse words: d—n (4), h-ll (4), GD (2), misuse of “God” (3). That’s not a ton of language for a PG-13 film, although I always cringe when hearing the Lord’s name taken in vain. As for sexuality/sexuality, it is minimum. We see a prostitute in a restaurant and hear the word “prostitute” twice. A woman hits on a few men and implies she wants a one-night stand. A train employee, too, implies that he wants more than innocent romance.
3. It raises tons of ethical questions. Such as: Is it ever OK to take the law in your own hands? I’d love to list a few more questions, but I’m afraid I might give away the plot. Murder on the Orient Express also raises several theological and moral questions: Will your sins always find you out (Numbers 32:23)? Are there any “gray areas” in criminal matters? Is it ever OK for the police to go outside the law? The film also shows how one simple tragedy can impact dozens of people.
4. The scenery is magnificent. The Orient Express cuts through snow-capped mountain peaks and deep valleys, making you long for the days when trains were a primary mode of transportation. Unfortunately, the scenery might be the high point. That’s because …
5. The story is average at best. It begins strong and ends strong, but the middle of the film is incredibly slow – so slow that a man behind me fell asleep and began snoring. At times, the film seems more like a PBS Masterpiece show or a local theatrical play.
Entertainment rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Murder on the Orient Express is rated PG-13 for violence and thematic elements.