Murder on the Orient Express

I have particularly fond memories of watching the escapades of Hercule Poirot, played by David Suchet with my grandmother.  Curled up in an arm chair as a child in the warmth of her living room watching an odd man with an exacting manner solve the unsolvable crimes created by Agatha Christie made for many a fun afternoon.

I had mixed feelings of excitement and dread when I heard about the remake of this film as I was really worried that it would slaughter the fond memories of afternoons watching one of my favourite detectives (Father Dowling just doesn’t have the same panache) especially as Kenneth Branagh is involved, who I will readily admit to having a love/hate relationship with.  I can say, hand on heart I was wrong.  I loved this remake, with its all star cast and subtle humour.

I won’t recall the synopsis of the story as this is such a well known book and film it really would be pointless and dull reading for you guys, instead I will harp on about some of the finer points which have been picked out in this reinvention of a classic.

What you will notice first, is how Branagh has explored the mental health of Poirot, defining his OCD nature to an exacting standard, which initially you may think petty when he is measuring the size of the eggs served to him, but really is the key as to why he is the best detective in the world.  It is prevalent in the script, and the actions that the gift that enables Poirot to solve crimes, is also his curse.  I think that with the way in which Branagh has brought this element to the forefront of the character it has given a new insight as to how his brain works.  This isn’t to say that Poirot is perfect, there are points in the film, where you see him struggle to find the answer and demonstrate a fear that only someone with OCD will truly understand.  That abhorrent feeling of not understanding something or not able to follow your usual routine, demonstrated in a way in which is touching and sentimental as he speaks to a photograph of his lost love Katherine.

All the characters are well rounded in this film, as they should be with the names that were playing them.  They all sit so naturally together and created a beautiful union of talent on screen.

The sets are decedent, with the art deco fixtures elegantly picked out on the orient express.  Each set has been lovingly filled with elements from the era to bring the luxury of rail travel of the time to life.

There are some nice comedy elements to this film, which lighten the mood from the twisting tail of murder, although I do think that Poirot is particularly agile for a man that walks with a cane.

What I really liked, and I find it hard to believe I am saying it, is the film has managed to keep the twee.  By this I mean that there is a certain feel to an Agatha Christie book, everything fits in to a nice little box at the end, it is all neatly wrapped up and there is a comforting feeling.  We see the same sort of thing in the old detective movies and TV series, particularly with things like Poirot and ‘Murder She Wrote’ (I know this wasn’t Agatha Christie, but it had the same feel).  I love that there are no questions at the end of the film for me to drive myself insane with.

There is a blatant pitch right at the end for the next film and Poirot gets off the orient express to be meet with a request to travel to Egypt as there has been a murder on the banks of the Nile…If Branagh can keep up the all star cast and lush context of the sets I am sure that this will be just as enjoyable.

So, while I don’t think that this will be a box office smash hit, I personally very much enjoyed the film.  It is well worth going to see if you have a small place in your heart of the joyous and awkward Hercule Poirot.

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