Based on Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel of the same name, Murder on the Orient Express explores one of her more thrilling cases about the spectacular Belgian detective Hercule Poirot’s.
In need of some well-deserved respite, Poirot plans to have a few days off from catching thieves and murderers. Unfortunately, some urgent news from London requires that he return immediately, and so Poirot boards the Orient Express in Istanbul with 12 other peculiar passengers.
As they embark on their journey across Europe, the train derails into a snowbank, and in the aftermath it is revealed that one of the passengers has been murdered.
When I read Christie’s novel, I was enthralled with the very idea of a fancy train carriage full of all sorts of mysterious characters, each with something to hide, trapped until the snow melts. With a sense of claustrophobia and mistrust, they wait anxiously while Poirot works through the evidence and figures out ‘whodunnit’. It’s like Cluedo on a train!
Though cinematic, director Kenneth Branagh’s retelling veers too far off course from Christie’s original text, ramping up the drama and adding way too many levels of moral ambiguity. Poirot becomes anguished by what is right and wrong, which is barely touched on in the book. In the book, Poirot simply wants to find out the truth and return home.
As the film struggles to get back on track, it begins to seem like this might just be Branagh’s passion project. He does direct, produce and star as the lead role, after all. And Poirot, though relatively true to his unyielding, no-nonsense self, does seem to tire easily as the film goes on.
*Murder on the Orient Express was seen at Dendy Canberra.