I am a HUGE Agatha Christie fan. I don’t have to say it but her style of writing is unparalleled. There has been no one in history so far who has been able to build mysteries and solve them as well as she has been able to. And to think that she did this with an array of eccentric detectives? It’s something that places her out of reach of any limit. Indeed, she is as limitless as limitless can get.
I also like to think that I landed a job because of her, so that makes her all the more special for me. The interviewer, on seeing ‘reading’ among my hobbies, asked me who my favorite author was. And I immediately took Agatha Christie’s name. Murder on the Orient Express remained at the top of my list for ages to come. Until, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd happened, that is. But that’s beside the point.
When the film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express was announced, I saw it had an impressive star cast. Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dame Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Willem Dafoe… Phew! But the most important of all, that of eccentric Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot was going to be played by Kenneth Branagh, who would also direct the movie.
I was mightily disappointed, because Poirot is supposed to have an egg-shaped head. He’s supposed to be someone whose misery, when is as well-written as Agatha Christie writes it, becomes comic to the reader. He’s supposed to be quaint, weird, strange. I didn’t think Branagh was the best bet to play Poirot. But then again, he is an Academy Award nominated, critically acclaimed actor and director. So pretty reluctantly, I did give him the benefit of the doubt. [Look at me, acting all high and mighty.]
When we decided to watch Murder on the Orient Express, I was excited because one of my favorite novels was going to come to life on screen. Yes, there was an undercurrent of my displeasure with Poirot, and there was also the nagging feeling of truth that most bookworms experience. “It will never be better than the book.”
Of course, no movie (bar a rare few) has been better or even matched up to the book it has been based on. And Murder on the Orient Express is no different.
Even though Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot has many of the quirks that his creator intended him to have, there is not the overall eccentricity that is expected of him. Yes, he is supposed to be smug. Yes, he is supposed to be particular about certain details. But there’s just something about the genius of Kenneth Branagh that still falls short. While in his other movies, you cannot separate the character from the actor, here, in Murder on the Orient Express, you can tell that he is trying hard. And yet, he doesn’t quite live up to Poirot.
Michelle Pfeiffer, on the other hand, does a wonderful job as Mrs. Hubbard. She is equal parts ruffled and equal parts the siren that she somehow wants people to see her as. Penelope Cruz also deserves a special mention when compared with the other cast members. The others haven’t done a bad job. It is just that in the entirety of Murder on the Orient Express, there are just two that stand out.
My complaint with Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot is because I am an Agatha Christie fan. And when on the whole, the movie isn’t as engaging, I also become a stickler for detail. If you ask me years from now whether I liked Murder on the Orient Express, I’ll still maintain that the book is better than the movie. The movie might then be relegated to one of those that I wouldn’t care much about. And that’s a shame.
They could have done a better job with the length of the movie, the first 20 minutes could have been just five. But they didn’t. They could have made Poirot look like he’s supposed to look. But they didn’t. They could have made the screenplay crisper than it now looks. But they didn’t.
And it is these “buts” that pull my opinion of Murder on the Orient Express further downwards to a mere 3 stars.
Rating: 3/5 stars
Until next time, keep reading, keep watching, and add melodrama to your life. 🙂
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