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Westside Steve

Murder on the Orient Express review

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Murder on the Orient Express
20th Century Fox
PG-13.                          114 min

I’ll be honest. I have never ever red and Agatha Christie novel and I have never seen a film based on one. If I’m not mistaken the audience of those books was largely made up of older straight-laced women, including my stepmother may she rest in peace, who owned all of those novels as well as the largest collection of miniature elephants I’ve ever seen. I’m aware of a very popular TV series featuring Ms. Christy’s famous French detective Hercule Poirot who has appeared in 33 novels and over 50 short stories. The reason for the background is that unlike many films made for mystery novels that I’ve read I have absolutely no idea who the killer might be on this legendary train. The reason I was drawn to this film is not only the historic impact stretching from 1920 to present day but the all-star cast led by one of my favorite actors of all time Kenneth Branagh, and including such luminaries as Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench and Penelope Cruz just to name a few. I’m guessing that the target audience here might be older folks who grew up in the Heyday of Christie’s writing, hence the lackluster showing at the box office but what the heck. You might have the opportunity to take your mom to a movie this season. Or Grandma. Or anybody who enjoys a great mystery and that’s just what this is.
I’m especially glad I didn’t know what was coming, I don’t even know if the writers took liberties with Ms Christie’s book. And unlike most of my reviews I won’t even give you an extensive synopsis let alone a spoiler. 
There are a lot of reasons beside the ending that made me love this film. First off it’s a Journey that takes us back to an elegant an exotic world when visiting cities like Istanbul was an adventure not a life harrowing plunge into a third world hellhole. Back when the theft of a historical artifact or a single murder was shocking; before the bad guy had to kill dozens or even hundreds of people to get the attention of the world. It was a time when the good guys outwitted the bad guys.
Hercule Poirot is a Persnickety genius who just happens to be the world’s greatest detective though Sherlock Holmes and Mike Hammer fans might want equal mention. Looking for a little bit of rest and relaxation after solving a rather heroin crime and finds himself aboard the Orient Express along with approximately a dozen interesting characters.
I will let the plot go with this description. As you can probably tell from the title of the film that there has been a murder and it is (guess where?) on the Orient Express. Since we are reasonably sure that Poirot is not the murderer it. Red herrings abound as the detective interviews each and every  passenger  and find something fishy. (Sorry about that pun by the way.) The fact that most of the cast are a bit, shall we say, mature, it adds to the ambience of the 1930s. Actually, even though I think he’s a very good actor, I don’t always enjoy Johnny Depp’s characters. This time he nails the film noir tough guy just perfectly. And Branagh is a perfect chameleon as usual. Not only that but the other high-caliber talent makes provides for a for much more powerful ensemble then a couple of veterans with a bunch of also-rans. And one of my general movie tests was Wile murder was certainly not action packed I never looked at my watch which how often do a couple times during even the noisiest flick. Due to the demographics murder has not been the number one box office hit that the superhero films usually are but there are two positive factors. One is European sales and to is longevity because the older audience takes its time to go to the brick-and-mortar theaters and will often wait 4 pay-per-view or dvd.
It’s a perfectly crafted, written and filmed mystery. And yes, not unlike the superhero franchises oh, the very last line indicates a sequel. “Mssr. Hercule Poirot? There has been a murder on the Nile!”


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Actually.....the line was:  there has been a Death on the Nile.

When we spoke, as I said, I was astounded that you had never been exposed to this story....and its conclusion before. I think that is great actually...that you did not know the conclusion.

I had seen several movie versions of this story. It has been done several times.   Peter Ustinov played Poirot in a 70s version of this story. Plus the more recent series: 

But....if you want to see the very best Poirot....not that Branagh didn't do a good job, you must obtain the British ITV  series starring David Suchet and the prissy Belgian.  He did 70 different episodes I believe.


If you enjoyed this movie, you will enjoy this series.  Suchet is the epitome of Poirot.  

I am not sure where you can find them.   I get them from the library....but I suspect you can get them from Netflix or Hulu or some such.  Here in fact is a documentary where David Suchet actually took a ride on the famous Orient Express.  (This is not the story, but his real life trip on board the train)


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