When I first heard they were making a new big-screen version of Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie I was excited. The most recent David Suchet television version was excellent, but I was thrilled for Agatha Christie to get her due with a new big screen production. When the trailer first came out, I freaked out a little bit and not in a good way. The trailer made the movie seem super dramatic and a little over-the-top.
The cinematography looked great but I was concerned about a few casting choices (mainly Johnny Depp) and whether Poirot would be a pastiche gone horribly wrong. After seeing the movie this past weekend, I needn’t have worried too much. Kenneth Branagh imbued Poirot with his trademark characteristics, but also made him wonderfully his own. The accent wasn’t too much and while the elaborate mustache was on full display, there was no weird eyebrow raising or twirling of the mustache ends. Branagh’s Poirot was clever, decisive, funny, athletic (?!) and intense. The relationship between Poirot and Bouc was especially fun to watch and added an element of lightness and humor to an otherwise dark story. It was kind of like Bouc was Hastings’ younger, hotter, smarter brother.
The editing was particularly well done and the story moved along at a relatively quick pace. Much faster than the snowbound train anyway. As someone who has read the novel and seen all of the filmed incarnations multiple times, I appreciated that it clipped along steadily. I was fully prepared to hunker down and watch Poirot interview each and every passenger while examining their passport. Thankfully the editing kept my interest by alternating between passengers and location. The only downside I see to this is that an uninitiated audience may not fully appreciate the backstory and the devastating effect it had on some of the passengers.
I didn’t love Johnny Depp in his role as Edward Ratchett. Was he a creep? Yes. But I just didn’t get the sense of how much we, as an audience, were supposed to loathe this guy. The Suchet television version and Finney film did a much better job at conveying how evil Ratchett is and the torment he put people through. Depp seemed more like a guy pretending to be a gangster. “I have this long creepy coat on and speak in a Chicago gangster accent therefore I must be a bad guy.” Uh try again…
The only other criticism I have of the movie is the lack of foreboding and suspicious atmosphere. It is possible that the recent television adaptation of Christie’s And Then There Were None has spoiled me when it comes to expecting a certain mood. I was anticipating a heavier element of dread, fear and possibly self-loathing in the passengers – especially when they were all required to be together.
Overall, this was a well-made adaption and I was happy to go see a movie that wasn’t from the Marvel Universe. There are so few films worth spending the time, money and brain cells on these days and I am hopeful that by making Agatha Christie’s novels more accessible to non-Agatha Christie fans, Murder on the Orient Express will have a long and successful run so we can see future books developed with the same care. My fingers are crossed that the lovely little bit at the end with Poirot leaving for Egypt means a possible Death on the Nile sequel is in the works.
Have you seen Murder on the Orient Express yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.