When it comes to detective novels and murder mysteries, Agatha Christie is perhaps best known for her detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple. The first movie edition of Murder on the Orient Express (1974) was received warmly by critics and audiences alike. The recent remake, Murder on the Orient Express (2017), received less warmth from critics and audiences.
(Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot)
Kenneth Branagh directed and starred as Hercule Poirot in the 2017 rendition of Murder on the Orient Express. A star-studded cast joined Branagh, including Michelle Pfeiffer as Caroline Hubbard, Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff, Willem Dafoe as Gerhard Hardman, Penelope Cruz as Pilar Estravados, and Johnny Depp as Edward Ratchett. Many others joined in the story.
(Michelle Pfiefer as Caroline Hubbard)
This version of the movie maintains the larger framework of the book written by Agatha Christie while looking to bring in a contemporary moralizing and sensibility from a book written in 1934. If written today, the more likely means of locomotion would be an ocean cruise at sea for 2-3 days or a transcontinental flight meant to be in the air for a good long time with delays built in.
(Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff)
The movie begins as an extravagant train ride through Europe that, on the surface is a vacation for Hercule Poirot and the guests alike. The keen detective that is Poirot has his antenna up from the beginning when, quickly into the tale, the suspense and thrills of murder, clues, and detection begin.
(WIllem Dafoe as Gerhard Hardman)
Everyone seemingly has a motive for murder. The really baffling quality of the mystery here is that one lead after another after another leads to apparent dead end. The clear culprit defies the straightforward explanation that one would expect. Is the murderer Caroline Hubbard or Princess Dragomiroff? Might it have been Gerhard Hardman or Pilar Estravados? Many have plausible motives for murder, though not one of these suspects lends themselves to a satisfactory answer to the question who committed the murder?
(Penelope Cruz as Pilar Estravados)
My goal here is to give you a sense of the suspense. The discovery of the answer is one that I recommend you determine through reading the book or watching one of the movies.
(Johnny Depp as Edward Ratchett)
The critics consensus for this version of this movie, as shared on Rotten Tomatoes, is this:
“Stylish production and an all-star ensemble keep this Murder on the Orient Express from running off the rails, even if it never quite builds up to its classic predecessor’s illustrious head of steam.”
The critics consensus for the 1974 version, from Rotten Tomatoes, is more generous:
“Murder, intrigue, and a star-studded cast make this stylish production of Murder on the Orient Express one of the best Agatha Christie adaptations to see the silver screen.”
I personally enjoyed the 2017 version of the movie. That there were clues to unravel, multiple folks whose guilt was in question, and the underlying cleverness of an Agatha Christie murder mystery to outsmart were all there. For the very astute watcher, the solution to the crime is detectable. Regardless of the above stated critical reception, this basic quality was present in the movie.
The new Murder on the Orient Express is worth stream through Amazon Prime, HBO, or any other service of choice. Rent a copy from the library if you must. I’ve read the book. I am interested to see the 1974 version all the more for the glowing review above. My recommendation is to choose your path and immerse yourself in the mystery.
Matt – Monday, September 17, 2018