Murder. Sheer murder.

Kenneth Branagh made a great Benedick and Frankenstein but his interpretation of Poirot in the 2017  film  Murder on the Orient Express is just dreadful. The one saving grace in the whole film was Olivia Colman, whose relationship with the Judi Dench character was credible and developed on screen beautifully.

The Maid in Murder on the Orient Express

I could bear Johnny Depp as the foul, paranoid murder victim, but there is little else to recommend this version in preference to reading the book or watching the sublime Albert Finney version of the film.

The joy of Agatha Christie’s writing is the formula she sticks to – Poirot is stern but likeable (he’d never wave a gun around) and the solution to the crime is only revealed in a final denouement, not drip-fed in case the audience gets bored. And don’t get me started on Christie’s lack of chase scenes. I can’t think of a single one in all her books. Certainly not down a rickety scaffold bridge on which is precariously balanced a train full of people.

Film adaptations can be wonderful and, indeed, I enjoyed Branagh’s Frankenstein so it’s not the man himself. There are just too many differences from the book and from Poirot himself as a literary construct. The train derailment and bridge pursuit were laughable, as was the somewhat random profusion of guns. The whole point of a murder mystery is to see if you can reach the solution before the detective and the heavy-handed laying on of clues made that impossible. The line-up of suspects at the denouement (such as it was) was, I suspect, more to keep all the A-list Hollywood celebrities happy than to ease the narrative.

Two hours I’ll never get back.

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