The Murder on the Orient Express (Movie)

MOTOEAfter a week of trying to make schedules align I was finally able to go and see the new Murder on the Orient Express movie. I had initially planned on writing this up as a more structured book and movie contrast or to compare different versions but there are plenty of good posts out there already doing that. Like this one from Brad which not only compares each of the filmed versions but also talks about the significance of the book to him.

Instead I am just sharing some thoughts about the movie. I’m not trying to cover or mention everything – just the things that struck me most during the film or which I ended up talking about with my wife as we left. And for those who are considering seeing this and don’t know the ending I am keeping this spoiler-free.

OrientExpressKenneth Branagh’s Moustache Isn’t Distracting

The most surprising thing about the film was how little I noticed the moustache once the film began. I have slightly mixed feelings about the content of the first ten minutes which is a little like a Bond-style pre-credits adventure. It’s there to establish Poirot as the greatest detective in the world and set up the principle themes of the movie. While I felt the film tried too hard to be funny and it was a little too frantic, it does allow the viewer time to adjust to this new Poirot before he sets foot on the train. By the time we see Poirot sniffing breads in Istanbul I wasn’t concentrating on the moustache or his more streamlined physique – I was becoming immersed in the story.


Bouc Actually Makes An Impression

When I read the novel I remember the character of Bouc feeling like a significant figure because of his established friendship with Poirot yet I often feel that the character becomes forgotten. Tom Bateman does a great job here though, portraying Bouc as an irresponsible bon vivant. More importantly, through his character we witness the emotional toll the case takes on those involved as we see how grave and serious he has become by its conclusion.

Branagh Has A Great Eye… But Overthinks Some Shots

Why did we need a new version of Murder on the Orient Express? I certainly was wondering this but sequences such as the train pulling through the city of Istanbul or the avalanche give the film a sense of scale that differentiates it from previous filmed versions. The train looks truly fantastic and so glamorous that you almost wouldn’t mind being trapped in it with a killer on the loose if you could enjoy the seemingly endless supply of Godiva chocolates that are on hand.

While much of the film is very well directed, I do think Branagh goes a little overboard at moments trying to inject some visual flair into the movie. At several times he indulges in long tracking shots, an overhead shot of a conversation in a corridor and films scenes through textured glass and it’s a little distracting. And then there’s the scene near the end where the cast are positioned like they are in a very famous painting…

GadJosh Gad Stands Out In An All-Star Cast

Like the previous movie version that starred Albert Finney, Branagh has assembled an all-star cast. In a film that features Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi and Olivia Coleman, the standout performance came from Josh Gad who surprised us by playing the part absolutely straight. He is much more than Olaf and LeFou!

Johnny Depp Is A Good Ratchett

Last year my wife and I went to a film where Johnny Depp made a ‘surprise’ appearance in the final few scenes of the movie. When he appeared the full audience audibly groaned, disappointed in the reveal and with a hint of Depp-fatigue.

There was a little of that yesterday but for my money (an outrageous $15 for a matinee!), Depp fit the part very well and makes a strong impression in relatively little screen time.

The Ending Isn’t Exactly Bungled But…

When the early reviews came out, several suggested that the solution was impossible to follow if you don’t already know the story. I asked Brad his opinion before seeing it and I essentially agree with him that there are a few clues left on the table but that the solution is there.

I will say though that the film does rush through the conclusion. My wife, who has seen previous film versions but not in a long time, did not struggle to understand what the solution to the murder had been but did wonder what Poirot decided to do about what he learned in the end. She had guessed correctly but we don’t get to hear the conversation take place.

We Would Be Excited To See Another

At the end of the film there is a little moment which is meant as a little nod to the fans and possibly sets up a sequel. If that happens, and it looks likely now that it will, I would be excited to see it.

6 thoughts on “The Murder on the Orient Express (Movie)

  1. Thanks for the mention! I agree with all your points! Both the 1974 and the Japanese version (which I’m watching on and off) start with the opening of the book: Poirot on his way home after he has solved the case. I suppose that works for purists, but there are millions of people who haven’t heard of Poirot (can you believe that?) and showing him in action gives them some access to his character before the real fun begins. Branagh’s “Bond-style pre-credits adventure” was at least beautifully filmed and lots of fun. The Alfred Molina soft-porn opener was ridiculous, and the less said about the opening of the Suchet version, the better.

    I have to admit that, knowing the story as well as I do, I didn’t give too much thought to the ending being “rushed.” I acknowledge this criticism, but it felt alright to me. And I’m up for more, but as other GAD fans have said, I wish folks would make movies out of some OTHER Christie titles. I’m sure they’ll come up with interesting variations for Death on the Nile; it’s just that other tales deserve the big-screen treatment, too. I’d love to see a really clever version of Ackroyd that figures out how to do cinematically what Christie accomplished on the page, if that’s possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I share your desire to see a different book picked but I suspect we will be stuck in the types of stories that provide the best opportunity for lavish visuals and extensive casts. My pick based on that criteria would be Murder in Mesopotamia. I think Branagh could find some visual inspiration in the setting that would immediately set it apart from the TV version.

      I totally agree about the pre-credits adventure sequence being enjoyable. I think it sets the mood well and, as you note, is far preferable to that Suchet opening…

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  2. I agree that the mustache is not nearly as distracting as I anticipated based on the trailer.

    Overall my feelings about this adaptation are…meh. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either…aside from the cinematography and general visual look which you have touched upon. I heard Branagh in an interview discussing how drones have made a real impact on movie making as it is now so much cheaper to do some of those big lucious shots. As well as offering a good perspective of the inside of the train. Other than that my movie going chum and I both wondered what the point was as we left the cinema.

    I don’t know that I will be excited to see them adapt the other Christie book (there are only two right?) but I will definitely toddle along all the same

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heh – it does seem like there are only two unfortunately. It is a shame that movie producers are fixated on these two but I think that reflects that they are perceived to be more cinematic in scale. I had been able to accept a new MOTOE because previous filmed versions didn’t get it right – that will be a little harder with Death On The Nile because I remember the Suchet version as being excellent (and I have fond memories of the Ustinov production too).

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