I very much enjoyed 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express. As an avid mystery book reader, I’d heard of the 1934 novel in question, of the writer Agatha Christie, and even knew bits and pieces about her recurring eccentric detective Hercule Poirot. (It’s the kind of name that sticks with you.)
But that is ALL. I. KNEW. For a book almost a hundred years old. I don’t know how I wasn’t spoiled. Even after this movie came out, I still wasn’t spoiled. That’s got to be a miracle. It’s not like 1934 was within the statue of limitations for spoilers. But I won’t spoil you here.
The story played fair enough to guess the at murderer
The clues were very good, the misleads worked, and the backstory was tragic. I thought the ending was perfect. I guessed early on who the actual killer was (there’s one clue in particular that I thought made it clear). Then I KNEW I was right at the ‘Last Supper’ blocking during the climax. No director goes to such lengths without due cause. It’s beautifully done. Again, I’m not spoiling anything. You’ll know the scene when you see it.
The setting is gorgeous
Throughout, the setting is sumptuous, impressive both inside and out in the snow-locked mountains. Note how often mirrors, reflections, and distorted images seen though beveled windows work to carry the themes of identity and madness. I loved seeing the bit players in the background actually digging the train out, and watching the progress in the background — a constant reminder of the how much ticking time was left to solve the mystery.
I recently saw Orient Express on my airplane seatback, and would have been excited to have seen it in 2017 on the big screen. But as it was, personal flight seatbacks are great for constant playbacks of everyone’s reaction shots. I think that helps a lot. It also helps with the frequently unintelligible lines by many of the actors, which should never happen in the film with such otherwise loving directorial quality (by Kenneth Branagh, who was starring in it).
The staging was Baroque
And now I wonder if the Last Supper blocking was hinted at in the novel, or was something Branagh himself devised. You see a lot of Jesus callbacks in a lot of entertainment — La Pieta pops up a lot, and of course the Christ on a Cross imagery. Stigmata, the grail, and blood symbolism are common symbols in film. Very stylized movies might even have lighting worthy of a Caravaggio.
But you need a big cast for The Last Supper, and a reason to stage people so carefully.
Christie on a Kindle?
Anyway, I enjoyed Orient Express greatly. I’m going to grab the book on Kindle and see how Christie reads. There’s a nod to Death on the Nile at the end of Orient Express (the movie) …and there’s news Nile is in the pipe for the next film. YAY! Should I read Nile first or wait for the movie? I think the movie will be more fun to do first. I tend to like a movie better if I read the book later. Sometimes reading a book first sets up unrealistic expectations for the transition to film.
This is a solid B for me. It misses a B+ by nature of the dialog that either some of the actors couldn’t handle, or a ball-dropping by the production team. Mysteries, especially, need lines you can understand. You want to be carried along guessing whodunnit and howdunnit. The film also lacks a certain energy: things get bogged down in the middle. This might have been from difficulties translating all the important details/red herrings from the Orient Express novel to the screen.
Did you correctly guess who the killer was?
Movie Grade: B
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Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)