Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Based on Agatha Christie’s novel. Screenplay by Michael Green
Released: November 2017
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer and Daisy Ridley
‘Um. No.’ – My review in brief of both the film and book.
I read the book then immediately watched the film, but ultimately they were both disappointing. (The film, more so.)
I am a huge Agatha Christie fan and have read a fair few of her books, but despite its fame, Murder on the Orient Express is by far the biggest disappointment – mostly due to the ending.
Basically, in regards to the film, there are far too many characters to keep track of and far too many details to ponder for it to be an enjoyable murder mystery film. Whereas in the book, it is an intriguing and baffling mystery – because you have time to think about everything and consider all the possibilities before the conclusion.
In addition to this, I’d like to add that there are many big names in this film, who seemed to have been cast despite their obvious lack of similarity to the characters in the book.
For example, Mrs Hubbard is described as a plump, humorous, brash, loud and excitable woman, but also motherly and thinks highly of her daughter. Quite clearly, I imagined Kathy Bates would play the role (with her performance of Molly Brown in Titanic in mind), who is the opposite of Michelle Pfeiffer who played Mrs Hubbard in the film as a flirtatious cougar:
Several characters that are included in the book are excluded in the film, or are merged into one character, which became somewhat confusing and disappointing. I was quite attached to the sobbing, ‘sheep-faced’ Greta Ohlsson, who was totally removed from the film.
“She’s like a sheep, you know. She gets anxious and bleats.”
The detective, Hercule Poirot, gets things wrong in the film and accuses people too early. He comes across as a bit of an amateur, which is absolutely not accurate. Totally unlike the calm, level-headed, particular Hercule Poirot who knows the answers long before he says so.
In the film, there is a few action scenes that echo Sherlock Holmes. I felt this was jarring and unnecessary (and are not in the book, I might add!).
I was disappointed by this tone of the film because I was expecting a The King’s Speech kind of feel. Where the dialogue becomes a character of its own, where it is so captivating that you find yourself totally lost in what the character is saying – looking for clues in the way they choose their words. Where the dialogue is isolated by extreme close-ups and static camerawork during dry, but captivating monologues.
It’s a shame really! I can see so clearly what I would change about this movie. There is so much important dialogue, but its treated as a nuisance that is rushed through and forgotten about and interjected with pointless action scenes.
The ending was the biggest let-down – in terms of the book and film. Without giving it away completely, I will say that if ‘…and he woke up and it was all a dream‘ is the worst ending to a story ever, then the ending to Murder on the Orient Express is the second to worst ending ever. It was a massive deflation after a long, climactic, uphill hike.
In regards to the film, it was more than just the ending that was disappointing. It was the film in its entirety. Basically, there are around 15 main characters in this story, and all of them need to be given almost equal attention as they are all suspects and they all need to be interviewed.
So, as you can imagine, this means there is a lot of detail that needs to be told to the audience in a very short amount of time!
I don’t mean to do the cliche thing of saying ‘it was not as good as the book’, because although this is true, I think Murder on the Orient Express is a story that is simply unsuitable for the screen. It just doesn’t work – there’s too much information that needs to be conveyed.
Basically, if you haven’t read the book, you’re probably going to be quite lost in the film because they skim over the dialogue – which is all disguised in heavy accents anyway. So even if you do catch some important detail, you probably won’t be able to decipher the meaning of it anyway.
Overall, not Agatha Christie’s best ending, and not an enjoyable film. Too confusing and without the ‘gasps’ and intrigue of the book. Perhaps if Kenneth Branagh picked between playing the main character or the director, instead of doing both, then perhaps more time would have been spent on the script.
I know no one intends to make a bad film… But y’all made a bad film.
Jodie’s rating: 3/10