If lush period dramas and classic whodunits are your jam, then Murder on the Orient Express is the fall film you’ve been waiting for. Based on Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel by the same name, director Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation takes viewers on a journey as breathtaking as the Orient Express itself, thanks to impeccably researched costumes and sweeping cinematography. An all-star cast, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, and Penelope Cruz, brings the bravado the characters need to pull off this murder mystery. But it’s 1930s glamour that often steals scenes, as passengers move through the train in luxurious silk dressing gowns with perfectly set curls and neatly packed cases, sipping champagne from crystal coupes and nibbling Godiva chocolates.
“The Orient Express was a very celebrated way of travel so there would have been a sense of event to it,” the film's costume designer, Alexandra Bryne, told InStyle. Connecting Paris to Istanbul, the Orient Express was a symbol of elegance during its time, and the opulence of the art deco train shines in every detail of the film, from the precisely set cutlery, to the immaculate clothing choices. Byrne worked closely with Branagh and the cast to craft historically accurate looks with a fresh, vibrant feel and an air of intrigue to match the story’s setting. Since every passenger on the train is a murder suspect, and no one is who they appear to be, the costumes and accessories were an integral part of the plot.
“It’s a bit like being a backwards detective in that there are certain clues or indications you can give without giving too much away,” said Bryne. “It was important to be true to the characters and how they might have arrived at the looks that they’re using to disguise themselves.”
Since the majority of the film takes place while the train is stuck in an avalanche shortly after departing Istanbul, Bryne said she punched up the color palette to contrast the snowy white background. “I wanted color to be an important part of the storytelling,” she said. “You could do the early '30s and use all shades of brown, or you could be more adventurous since some of the colors people wore were quite strong and vibrant and in unusual combinations.”
Case in point: the plum evening gown Michelle Pfeiffer’s character, Caroline Hubbard, wears during a critical scene with Johnny Depp’s Edward Ratchett. Or the black and gold print robe Lucy Boynton’s character, Countess Elena Andrenyi, wears in her sleeping compartment.
Bryne’s favorite look? A ski suit she designed for Caroline Hubbard. “The first day on the train, Caroline is just coming from Istanbul so she’s wearing a dress with Syrian embroidery. The second day when they’re going into the mountains she’s wearing a ski suit because she’s dressing to be in the snow. It's all themed dressing, where there are just a few elements too many going on.”
Scroll through to see more of the film’s stunning costumes and sets—and see if you can solve the mystery.
Murder on the Orient Express opens Nov. 10.