Murder on The Orient Express is currently showing in many major London cinemas and my sister and I decided to watch it on Sunday afternoon at Odeon Leicester Square. Being me, I hate watching a movie based on a book that is considered a masterpiece without reading the book first so I decided to give Dame Agatha Christie’s novel a go before going to the cinema. It’s a short book, you can finish it in a day (mere hours in my case).
As always, I am amazed at how Agatha Christie managed to squeeze a really compelling mystery in so few pages when lesser authors struggle to form a coherent story with more. Although I did not quite like the writing style in this one as much as I liked the other novels – I found it to be too disjointed and abrupt at times – one cannot deny that the story takes you to a journey, and as always, I found myself not even trying to figure out whodunit (because I knew I’d be proven wrong anyway) and just settled in for a good read.
I really liked the idea of twelve strangers in a train and Hercule Poirot having to figure out who the killer is amongst them. She’s done this before on ‘And Then There Were None’, and I think she’s really fascinated by the idea of people coming from different walks of life, with their individual histories and background, being put in a situation where they have to temporarily interact with each other. In this case, because the Orient Express is stuck in a snow drift somewhere in freakin’ Yugoslavia, Hercule Poirot has no other means with which to investigate and find the killer out apart from his own powers of deduction.
What can he find in these people’s pasts that can point to the identity of the killer? What is the motive? Is there a connection between some of the passengers that could mean that this is the work of more than one killer? Slowly, Hercule uncovers their secrets and separate the lies and half-truths from the truth. The twist, when it inevitably came, really surprised me even though I could see how we, as readers, were being led to this conclusion. I was also surprised that I wasn’t spoiled because apparently the real identity of the killer is some kind of cultural thing: EVERYONE knows it. Overall, it was a very satisfying read.
Now, the movie.
I have to admit, I slept through the first 10 -15 minutes of the movie because I got bored. There were a lot of unnecessary scenes and I was helped on to my path to dreamland by the knowledge that I already knew how this story goes. However, I’m glad that I managed to be more awake when the Orient Express finally started on its journey. I thought that Kenneth Branagh had a slightly more…eccentric and egotistical interpretation of Hercule Poirot. And I suppose in this day and age, you have to add a few action sequences because a movie where they all sat around talking about the murder won’t wash with today’s audience.
But I thought that even without the added action sequences, the story and the really strong acting performances by most of the cast would have carried the movie through. That dramatic ending, when we finally find out who the killer is, gave me chills and had me shedding a few tears. Patrick Doyle’s fantastic score, which I’m listening to as I write this blog, really added to the emotional weight of that scene. The flashback of the night of the murder…reading the book, you never realised the full extent of how tragic that was, and how much impact one event can have on so many lives.
I hear that this movie has been getting negative reviews, but I thought it was brilliant. Michelle Pfiefer in particular did such a good job as the annoying Mrs. Hubbard and of course I’ve always loved Dame Judi Dench. I think that the second half of the movie was stronger than the first, and I also think that audiences would find that the motive for the murder will really resonate with many of us. What is justice after all? Who gets to decide whether one should live or die or how one should be punished for their sins?
Can I just say though, that for me, the real winner of this movie is that damn score of Patrick Doyle’s. I would totally watch this movie again for that.
Check out both the book and the movie if you haven’t already. I’m also planning to watch the original one that was done in the 70s if I can find a copy of it. Happy reading and watching bookworms! x