Agatha Christie, Queen of the Golden Age of British detective novels, needs no introduction, and one of her most famous books is Murder on the Orient Express. For those of you who haven’t read the book, I’ll sum up the plot. Hercule Poirot, Christie’s famously fastidious and clever Belgian detective, with his egg-shaped head and enormous mustaches, has just averted an international crisis in Aleppo,when he’s called to change his plans and return immediately to London to deal with another pressing case. Surprisingly, the train from Istanbul to Calais is fully booked in the middle of winter, but with an odd assortment of people–a governess, an army doctor, a missionary, a Hungarian Count, an elderly Russian princess and her German maid. Also on the train is a man named Ratchett, his valet, and his secretary. Ratchett has lived a life of shady dealings and violence, and he travels with a gun and tries to persuade Poirot to function as a guard for him, which Poirot refuses to do. The next morning, Ratchett is found dead, stabbed 12 times. Yet the conductor sat in the corridor all night, and swears no one entered the room. Additionally, while some of the stab marks are deep, others seemed to glance off the body, or to have been delivered by a weak hand. There are lots of clues, but all point in wildly different directions. The train is blocked by a snow drift, so Poirot has time to interview the passengers and solve the case.
I’ve been an avid and voracious reader since I was 6, so it will come as no surprise to learn that I typically hate movie adaptations of books. When I received my movie tie-in edition of the book and looked at the photos, my heart sank. I was pretty sure I was going to hate the movie.
Surprisingly, I didn’t. I have some complaints, which I’m going to tell you about (lucky you!), but overall I enjoyed the film. I even recommend it–it’s a fun film that will appeal to a variety of audiences, so that you might actually be able to get your family to agree on something.
Johnny Depp at Ratchett, the evil victim
Other reviews have fixated a bit on Kenneth Branaugh’s mustaches, and I agree with the criticism. They are ridiculous. In his defense, in the books Poirot’s mustaches are always called just that, so I am willing to give them a pass. What I CAN’T pass on, however, are his changes to the character. If Poirot stepped in horse droppings in the book, he would probably feel faint and have to return to his hotel and change. In the movie, he deliberately steps with the other foot so they’ll be equal. NOOOO!! I felt like shouting. The other big problem is his sentimental sighing over a picture of a long-lost love. It’s true Poirot could be sentimental, but I don’t think he would ever sigh over a photo that he carried next to his heart for life. [Read More…]