Spoilers for Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie’s 1934 mystery first connects to its viewers through its excessive use of very famous people.
Every character introduction feels like a wink and a nudge to the viewer. Daisy Ridley (Star Wars), Josh Gad (Frozen, Beauty and the Beast), Johnny Depp (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), and Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton) have been in extremely popular recent works. Many of the others in the film, like Michelle Pfeiffer and Judy Dench, are equally well-known. While usually packing so many stars into a drama is distracting, it works for Murder. The films release date and cast give new life into this old tale.
Agatha Christie is best known for her murder mysteries. Murder turns the genre that Christie helped to define on its head. Rather than one or two killers, as is the case in many mysteries, every suspect is guilty of the crime. All twelve (like the twelve people on a jury) have committed murder for revenge.
Ironically, Depp has faced an unofficial public trial of his own. In 2016, Depp was accused of verbally and physically abusing his then wife, Amber Heard. The two later settled, but both were harshly judged by the public. Heard was criticized by Depp’s friends and the media for seeking money from their divorce, and Depp was later lumped in with the abusers named in the influx of accusations inspired by the #metoo trend, created by Tarana Burke and popularized by Alyssa Milano.
Many of the powerful people named in these accusations will never see the inside of a courtroom. However, the mob justice used in the movie has been (in a non-violent way–as it should be) used in real life to punish the people in Hollywood who have evaded justice until this point. In the past, actors and directors like Mel Gibson have gone to Hollywood jail, but this is public guilt on a massive scale. Though Depp continues to get work, his name is always attached to Heard’s accusations against him.
Everyone outside of Hollywood takes on the role of Hercule Poirot. We are all a step removed from the crime, and we have access to all of the evidence. But, like Poirot, it is not our place to judge the victims. When powerful men like Ratchett or Weinstein are taken down, it’s hard to not breathe a sigh of relief. These men are connected to an extensive web of people affected by their crimes.
The point of Murder on the Orient Express is that, when given the chance, we will act as our own jury. Poirot recognized that he could not judge them, for they have judged themselves. So much of this trend of public naming depends on public support. Finally, rather than judging victims (though this does still occur), the accused are judged.