Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
November 11, 2017 10:48 AM - Subscribe

Kenneth Branagh directs and acts in a remake of the Christie classic. Branagh plays master detective Hercule Poirot, and is joined by a star studded cast, who are all suspects when the passenger of a luxury train is murdered during the night.
posted by codacorolla (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'll start things off by saying that it's very well shot, but also exceedingly goofy. Even goofier than a very goofy book, and extremely goofy by mass market mystery standards. It has probably one of the worst action scenes I've ever seen in a wide release film, to boot (a scene that is very unnecessary). Pretty good, if hammy, performances, and (as mentioned) some very beautiful VFX and practical shots. Plus I love this time period of history, so I was all in for the costumes and production.
posted by codacorolla at 11:49 AM on November 11, 2017

It's beautiful.

Recommend a few (or a half dozen) nips of brandy to get through the camp, though.

best watched while wearing white tie
posted by Seeba at 1:14 PM on November 11, 2017

I'm planning to watch it this weekend and rushing right now to finish re-reading the book, and going to watch both the Ustinov film and the Suchet episode (just not sure if I will do it before or after seeing the new film). I was even looking at the Poirot anime to see if they did some kind of adaptation, but nope. I'm probably not going to play the game though, but I have played The Last Express, which was inspired by the book.

So yeah, is this worth it, or are my little grey cells going to be super disappointed?
posted by FJT at 1:56 PM on November 11, 2017

Ustinov or Finney? The big production version from the 70's had Albert Finney playing Poirot.
posted by hwestiii at 2:04 PM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I took my family to see it this afternoon. My brother and I both fell asleep in parts (maybe it's the recliner chairs!). It felt a little overly long and I couldn't tell a few characters apart for some reason. It had a lot of potential but just wasn't amazingly gripping. It could be that THE Poirot for me will always be David Suchet and the one on the screen was an imposter :)
posted by Calzephyr at 3:53 PM on November 11, 2017

So yeah, is this worth it, or are my little grey cells going to be super disappointed?

It's a little bit slow - my nephew fell asleep for about 15 minutes, and I could hear someone snoring behind us. It doesn't make any major changes to the story, but it does unravel the core mystery fairly well. Branagh's Poirot is OK, but nothing amazing. If lush production design is a big selling point for you, then it definitely has that in spades.
posted by codacorolla at 4:18 PM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Serious question: is there anyone alive who doesn't know the plot?

I admit I may have a slight bias.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:09 PM on November 11, 2017 [11 favorites]

Most of the people in my theater, from my experience. Half the people I saw it with. I would assume a majority of people in general, but probably just under half of the theater goers.
posted by codacorolla at 10:55 PM on November 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I only vaguely know the plot because, to missquote Italo Calvino, since everyone else read it, it is as if i read it already and i do not need to read it.

But because my friend loved it i will go and see this, if i catch it in English.
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 2:44 AM on November 12, 2017

Johnny Depp is the highlight, I thought -- Kenneth Branagh goes back and forth between fine and irritating. (And do Belgians really pronounce "oeufs" with the F?) I didn't like the way they changed the character of Hercule Poirot -- it seemed really unnecessary to make him so obsessed with balance. He's so much fun in the novels, and this felt a bit more cliched.

Overall, I thought that the movie could have used more of a sense of fun -- it's whimsical, but somehow takes itself too seriously.
posted by cider at 5:44 AM on November 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think the weakest points of the movie are due to the source material: a shit-ton of characters, most of whom aren't who they say they are, and so need to be twice-introduced in a 2-hour movie, an elaborate backstory that connects the killer to the victim and which the reader/viewer is expected to assemble into motive for every person accused, and the murder scheme with a really huge number of moving parts which, strangely, worked perfectly except for Poirot's unplanned arrival, and a few tons of snow.

Mostly I never liked the novel because it felt out of character for the Poirot I thought I knew. Agatha Christie seemed to give a lot of easy outs to the murderers to whom the reader, and Poirot too, is sympathetic (e.g. "The Mirror Crack'd,") and that's the case here, in spades. I always thought Poirot should've had a dimmer view of a murder like this which was, so to speak, far more premeditated than any other murder that comes to mind.

At the end of this movie, I kept thinking I'd missed the climax, and then I realized that the climax was really the murder near the beginning, and all we really got was flashbacks to it as the movie wound down. I really wish this kind of production had been pointed towards the (IMO) superior mystery such as "Death on the Nile," which is the story set up for the sequel, though with these numbers it doesn't seem like there will be one. Too bad.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:57 AM on November 12, 2017

Roger Ackroyd, eponysterical! The David Suchet TV movie was so good, and so very dark and disillusioned in tone, I just don't think I can go back to a campier version.
posted by Malla at 1:54 PM on November 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I didn't think this was as bad as some reviewers felt, which is admittedly a low bar. But not memorable, either, and while like Sunburnt I spotted the sequel hook, not interesting enough to make that happen. It's actually less angsty in some ways than the Suchet version was at the end. Definitely pretty to look at, and some nice individual performances, but does drag (enough to make my mind wander off to questions like "shouldn't their breath be visible out there, since it's so cold?"). Action!Poirot was all the nopes, though.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:54 PM on November 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ustinov or Finney? The big production version from the 70's had Albert Finney playing Poirot.

Finney. Ustinov played Poirot very nicely (though he does not look the part) in five films, but not a version of MotOE.

My 16-year-old daughter, completely unfamiliar with Poirot, was delighted by this film. As someone who has seen all the David Suchet episodes, and most of the other Poirot films since the 60s, I was somewhat less enthralled. I thought that Branagh's performance was mostly non-humorous, and never self-satirical, which was a shame. I agree that several of the action set-pieces seemed bizarre and unnecessary. And of course, the book is a stunt, so once you've read it, and seen three other film versions, it loses a bit of its edge. I did like the photography, and the ensemble, and I do prefer it to the Molina version. But if I'd had the choice, I think I would have preferred to re-watch the Albert Finney version.
posted by ubiquity at 12:56 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this version of Poirot was not a great direction to take the character, IMO. Poirot is often weary of the human condition, but he's not morose and angsty.
posted by codacorolla at 1:14 PM on November 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

It was a very pretty movie, but I didn't end up liking it very much, some of which might be attributed to the source material. It just felt like there were far too many logical leaps (of course, not leaps for the world's greatest detective).

I read the book a shockingly long time ago, and I haven't read much Poirot in general, but is he always a dick? Because great detectives don't always have to be assholes like Sherlock Holmes, and he sure came across that way.
posted by graventy at 7:18 AM on November 14, 2017

It's been a little while since I've read a Poirot book, but he's usually prickly, but not an asshole. Like, he's particular, and doesn't mince words with a person he doesn't like, but Branagh's interpretation was much harsher. I haven't read every book, however, so perhaps I'm wrong.
posted by codacorolla at 7:35 AM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

is he always a dick

He is usually a dick to bad people. He is usually charming to everyone else. The fact is that in the books he is portrayed as being well-liked and having many friends. This came through clearly with Ustinov and Suchet.
posted by ubiquity at 1:32 PM on November 15, 2017

It's been a long time since I read the book, but as I recall the BBC radio adaptation is pretty faithful to the source. It stars John Moffatt as Poirot, one of about 25 Poirot adaptations he was in. He seems to nail the fussiness of the character very well. All 5 episodes are available for 10 more days from today if anyone is interested.

Warning: many of the accents contained therein are NOT GOOD.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 4:07 AM on November 20, 2017

I was very disappointed. Yes, I am a diehard Suchet fan, and know the Christie books very well. But come on. Poirot would never ever wield a gun, engage in a fist fight, run atop a train car, or any other "action hero"-type stuff. And the entire "Katherine" emo backstory was fabricated. Why??? WHY??

The final line about "the bloody Nile" was ridiculous. Death on the Nile unfolded with Poirot on board the boat, and much like this one, the story happened around him. He was not called in to solve the case. That is egregious misrepresentation of the facts. As a means of setting up a sequel, it sucked ass.

I realized I really dislike Branagh's heavy hand as a director. It was overwrought and pedantic. Yes, beautifully shot, but when the scenery was more interesting than the all-star cast... something is wrong.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:58 PM on November 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I guess that I liked it more than most of you but I'm a pretty soft touch for stuff like this. Branagh's gonna Branagh and boy does he love his own face but it's fun to look at and moves quickly and was a good film to watch with my in-laws.
posted by octothorpe at 12:26 PM on November 23, 2017

I just saw it today, I absolutely loved it, and I want ten more films with Branagh as Poirot.

But I have no familiarity with the source material beyond knowing who Poirot is (More of a Sherlock Holmes girl over here), had no idea who the killer(s) was, and was surprised and amused throughout.

I loved all the performances, the sets, the camera angles, loved it.

The wastrel British guy was my favorite, though.
posted by Aquifer at 7:29 PM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

best watched while wearing white tie
I took a friend to see this last night - we both have dandy tendencies, and used the period opulence as an excuse to wear black tie.* And, since his birthday is this week I managed to get a few other friends to show up in black tie to surprise him. It was a pretty slow night at a small-town multiplex, but we turned heads and got plenty of compliments. Highly recommended!

As for the film, it's beautiful to look at with a great ensemble cast who seemed to be having fun, but it did feel a little bit flat and about 20-30 minutes too long. I read the book 20 years ago and didn't remember a thing about the plot -- It probably would have felt a lot longer if I knew whodunnit the whole time.

I enjoyed it overall, though, and I was struck during some of the interrogation scenes that this was actually a pretty audacious film for a big studio to release nowadays; it's 95% dialog and so quiet once the train is snowbound; I can't remember the last time I saw a big-budget film given that much breathing room.

*If it had been a proper old-school one-screen opulent movie palace I definitely would have worn white tie.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 8:11 AM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Okay, I've literally just finished watching the last thing, which was the David Suchet version of Murder on the Orient Express. I really loved the book originally and I do give huge props to Christie for introducing detective novels to me.

As for the three different versions: I like Suchet's Poirot the most. Branagh and Finney are kind of on the same level as Poirot. Finney plays him like a buffoon that hides his detective skills, but I feel he overplays this sometimes and I don't know if it's because it was made in 1974, but most of the time he seems silly. Branagh's Poirot is a jerk, but also all the action scenes are not Poirot-ish at all, so that didn't work.

As for the train itself, I liked Branagh's version because they seemed to have the budget to make the train actually seem fancy, which I felt Suchet's version lacked the most. Of course, it's a TV version so they can't compare. But I do feel all three kind of don't give a sense of space in the train. In the book there's literally a page dedicated to diagramming who is sleeping in each berth. I really wanted one of the adaptations to be able to give a strong sense of space and who was where, but that never seemed to be done.

Other observations: I liked how Finney's version handled the Armstrong story and the weird lighting when they stabbed Cassetti was the most vivid murder scene out of the three. Suchet's Poirot is great and it is super dramatic , but they also set it up well by having Poirot handle a case a before that ends in a suicide. The Branagh version also tries to be dramatic, but it kind of lands with a thud. The whole thing with Branagh Poirot and his deceased wife did not work AT ALL and any follow-up film should drop it immediately.

I feel that there's been enough versions and enough people know about the book that Branagh's version had the space to do their own thing, and you can see them trying with Poirot's wife and the whole Action-Poirot thing, but none of it really works. If they wanted something new, they could have just gone full "rule of law" and have Poirot turn them all in. Would have been a "this ain't your grandparents' Poirot" sort of moment, that sets up for more interesting sequels that don't always adhere to source material.
posted by FJT at 7:50 PM on December 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

« Older Steven Universe: Dewey Wins...   |  Dirk Gently's Holistic Detecti... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments