So I just watched the film ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, directed by Kenneth Branagh, and I have to say….I wasn’t very impressed.
I’d be in the minority here and I’m sure most of you guys loved it, but I ….didn’t. Chalked it up to the fact that Murder on the Orient Express was and still is, one of my favorite novels. I spent a lot of my teenage avoiding dealing with real life situations by reading about all the atrocities of human kind through Agatha Christie’s enthralling books. It wasn’t long till Hercule Poirot captured my interest, my imagination and my heart. Actually, it was halfway though the first book!
For the uninitiated, Murder on the Orient Express is about how the world’s best detective Hercule Poirot (as he refers to himself) solves a murder on the Orient Express, the train he’s travelling across Europe in. The train is detained at a snow drift and Poirot spends his time finding out who stabbed Mr. Ratchett and why. And with his superb grey cells at his command, 13 suspects and 2 accomplices, his rendition of the truth is as shocking as it is fascinating.
When I heard that the detective was back on the big screen, I couldn’t wait to watch it! And when I did, I spent quite a lot of the time yelling at the screen! Although, I must admit that the acting was simply wonderful, the actors were perfect, cinematography was brilliant and the music was amazing. Also, the train looked really cool! And the one thing I really liked was the fact that they called out the racism present then.
Also, I cannot deny that Johnny Depp’s Ratchett was brilliant and he perfectly captured the essence of the man’s arrogance and rage. The final scene, the moment of truth was amazing, very forceful, very passionate. Although, I cannot imagine Poirot actually feeling indecisive. He always struck me of being confident enough in himself and his beliefs to hardly ever doubt himself.
No, what ruined the film for me was the plot’s inaccuracy compared to the book. I suppose that is my own fault, to expect the film to adhere to the book. But I just cannot bear anyone changing anything about my favorite book. I felt that Poirot’s character had been completely changed, making him more emotional and sentimental. The Poirot in the books is sentimental as well, but his sentiments are less pronounced. His little nuances make him enigmatic, like the different approaches he takes while interviewing suspects, putting the scared people at easy; or pricking an arrogant man’s bubble. His penchant to remain as a ‘closed oyster’, keeping his inferences to himself till the big reveal at the end. He doesn’t prefer running after a villain himself, rather choosing to unravel a puzzle intellectually. His obsessive need to have method and order in everything. And the most annoying but oddly endearing of them all – his colossal ego.
But Branagh’s Poirot lacked all of this. He was intellectually the same but more open, more emotion-filled, more active and somehow more governed by his feelings. The mystery that surrounded Poirot, that made him peculiar and strange, was gone. Spoiler! (Not a big one though). The classic Poirot would have sooner died than stuck his feet in dung! But Branagh’s portrayal of Poirot’s fastidiousness with the sizes of eggs was brilliant!
Another thing that really bothered me was the different characters to the book. Of the 13, passengers in the train, many were altered. Some people’s names were changed, their characters had morphed, some had disappeared altogether and others had appeared. Like Mrs. Hubbard’s voluminous outpourings are transformed into coquettish flirting. The film also could have made the first discovery of the murder more forceful. Colonel..ahem, sorry, Dr. Arbuthnot’s description of the crime just didn’t cut it.
If this is your first foray into Murder on the Orient Express, you’ll probably come off very impressed and satisfied. But me, I would have like the plot to stick to the original story a little more. I realize this is a more modern take on the tale, but sadly, I’m old fashioned and think the story is perfect as it is, no extra characters added. I also understand that narrating this very complex story in hours is very difficult so kudos to the cast for portraying their version so succinctly yet understandably.