A Spoiler-Free Look at What Murder on the Orient Express Gets Right, and Wrong, About Faith

Publicity art for Murder on the Orient Express, courtesy 20th Century Fox
Publicity art for Murder on the Orient Express, courtesy 20th Century Fox

Every summer, when I’d visit my grandma and grandpa at their Colorado cabin for a week or so, I’d head to the bookcase the very first thing and pick out an old, battered, Agatha Christie book to read.  Those old drawing-room mysteries became a part of my childhood, and they’re still a part of me today. Walk into my study, and you’ll find practically a whole bookshelf filled with murder mysteries. Tattered Agatha Christie books take up two whole shelves.

So yeah, I was a little pumped to see Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Christie’s classic Murder on the Orient Express.

But when I walked out of the theater, I was a little disappointed.

It’s not that Murder isn’t a fun little movie. It is. It’s not that the performances aren’t good. Sometimes they’re even great. Branagh’s Hercule Poirot (Christie’s famously eccentric Belgian detective) is delightful, and the all-star cast (including Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Daisy Ridley and Johnny Depp) holds its own.

Moreover, Branagh—who also directed the film—wasn’t content to just make an intricately simple murder mystery. He wanted to say something about the nature of good and evil and the complexities found between the two.

But I think despite that ambition, or perhaps because of it, Murder on the Orient Express falls short of what it could’ve been. And honestly, I think it all comes down to how it grapples with one of the greatest mysteries of all: finding faith in a fallen world.

No spoilers follow, by the way—except for who gets offed.

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