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Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Murder on the Orient Express

The iconic train behind the new a-list film

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10 October 2017 by Simon Langley

If you’ve been following the movie industry at all this year, it won’t have escaped your notice that Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is set to be adapted into a feature-length film. It’s getting the all-star treatment too, with director Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot joined by the likes of Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Dame Judi Dench and Johnny Depp. And, ahead of the film’s November 3 release, we thought we’d take a look at the latest trailer to see how it measures up against the real thing. Expect fact checking worthy of the great detective himself and scrutiny perhaps bordering on the obsessed. This is, after all, one of our favourite experiences in world travel. 

The setting

The trailer opens with a sweeping panorama of early-20th-century Istanbul, backdropped by the iconic spires of the Hagia Sophia. We can also safely say that the foreground is a CGI representation of the Sirkeci Station, the eastern terminus of the Orient Express. While in reality it lacks the half-dozen domes of the trailer’s imagination, the station still hosts the train to this day, its intricate redbrick and carved façade every bit as grand as when it first opened in 1890. The only issue? The Orient Express only makes the journey to the Turkish capital once a year. So, get your tickets well in advance or – just like Poirot– you’ll find the train fully booked.

We next see the train steaming across Turkey’s mountain-framed Thracian Plain – a route it still takes today – before a series of beautiful panning shots introduce us to the route’s dramatic mountain scenery. It’s the evocative setting for the plot’s pivot – the eponymous murder. While, in the Christie original, this took place in the Croatian highlands, Branagh shot his remake in Maisons-du-Bois-Lièvremont, France. And, you’d do well to take a leaf out of the thespian’s book by looking instead towards the train’s current London–Venice journey. After darting through the French countryside you’ll be treated to some truly majestic Alpine scenery, climbing alongside peaks and plunging along valley floors. Thankfully, you won’t be subjected to the rickety trestle bridges of the film.

The Belmond Venice Simplon-Orient Express

The train

Although, sadly, the Orient Express is no longer steam powered, there’s plenty about the trailer’s offering that’s faithful to both Christie’s version and its modern-day iteration. Darkwood panelling glistens with polish, intricate marquetry lines the walkways and the bar car serves champagne in fine crystalware. The detail goes right down to the light fixtures. While they’re almost certainly no originals, their fanning design and geometric angles are exquisitely and precisely Art Deco. The trailer also hints at the train’s famous dining experience, with onboard chefs preparing multi-course indulgences. Just as we see Johnny Depp tucking into a particularly enticing dessert, today’s culinary highlights include Brittany lobsters and Mont St Michel lamb.

Restaurant car in the Belmond Venice Simplon-Orient Express

Again, with the cast and costumes, the attention to detail is superb. In a nod to their real-life counterparts, the hatted stewards wear the iconic blue of the Orient Express, inspired by the train’s livery. The A-list class is similarly well suited; Branagh is immaculate in a three piece and Michelle Pfeiffer sashays in a gorgeous cocktail dress. To this day, guests aboard the Orient Express embrace the opportunity to dress up, with many donning garments inspired by the period. Lastly, as Christie’s Poirot notes, the character list is “composed of just such varied nationalities” – the perfect excuse for a truly global cast of acting powerhouses. That’s why we’ll be treated to Branagh’s Belgian lilt, Cruz’s Spanish flair and the Russian severity of Dench in full flow.


Inspired?

Take a look at our Orient Express itineraries below, or read a first-hand account from one of our rail specialists.

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