Is an old British lady failing to anticipate a magic computer that lives in everyone’s pocket in a hundred years really a good example of a work of literature “not aging well?”
That’s my bad. I’m the one that started the whole train of thought that back when I read the novels in the 80s, I didn’t know when they were written and the books didn’t really give much away of the era they were written in. They could have been set in the 50s, 60s, 70s, for example, and most of the novel would read the same way. But clearly they can’t have been written in the post-90s because of our huge technology shift. That’s what HumanTon was referring back to.
I was turned off by this trailer because I don’t understand the tone of the movie. FWIW, I have no familiarity with any version of this story.
The cast at first suggested something a little tongue-in-cheek—Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Kenneth Branagh with an outrageous mustache, delivering with a straight face a line about maybe being the best detective in the world?
But the rest of the trailer doesn’t really support that. I guess they’re playing it straight? And then there’s the setting, which all looks like a period piece, but the floating credits/captions and the music have a very modern feel, further confusing things. So boooo, bad trailer.
I don’t see this is anything but a period piece, don’t see how it works in any other way, not sure I want to see it work in any other way…
To be fair, the Lumet film is the same. It’s so daft, it must be tongue in cheek, right? The delivery is so over the top! Poirot is more a bundle of fastidious ticks than a detective!Perkins overtly references Psycho! Connery being Connery! But in other ways the film takes itself deadly seriously.
Anyone see it? Reviews are pretty mixed.
(I hadn’t read the book or seen the Sidney Lumet version.) It was okay. The production design brought across the feeling of wedging opulent luxury on a train. I liked Branaugh’s performance as a Jedi Master of detectives, with maxed out ranks in deduction and mustache growth, while suffering from the terrible loneliness at being without peer. The rest of the ensemble was also a joy to see, though the cast roll was so lengthy, they didn’t have many chances to make an impression.
My wife and I, being casual viewers of modern crime entertainment, got that it was a period piece but found the murder mystery to be too dated to wholly enjoy. I’ll try not to spoil anything in case you hadn’t been spoiled after fourscore and three years of Orient Express Murder exposure to pop culture. Our perspective was that the whodunit genre takes a tragic and awful crime (and, I guess, a sin), reduces the emotions to “motive”, flattens characters to “suspects”, scatters clues around the setting like so many pixels in a point-and-click adventure, and boom, a murder investigation had become a logic puzzle. It’s like sticking a pin in a butterfly to show off the complexities of nature (and, by way of analogy, how many butterfly collections do you see nowadays? Those are awfully outdated, right?). Yes, Agatha was dreadfully clever to come up with such a perplexing puzzle, and her hero was terribly bright to see his way to a solution. But the culprit never seems to have blood on his/her hands. They are merely a chess piece moved between train compartments. We don’t care much for Jessica Fletcher or Monk, either.
As a period piece involving a detective and buddies trying to solve a murder, it’s not exactly Zodiac. As a film about a 65mm camera zooming around a train chugging through cold, remote, exotic landscapes, occasionally focusing on the interrelationships between its cold, remote, exotic passengers, it’s all right.
This is a great summary of why I consider Murder on the Orient Express to be Agatha Christie’s weakest mystery.
Back in 2000, I was writing/programming a text-based adventure game. It had been 8 years since the last time I read an Agatha Christie novel, so I wanted to brush up on what makes for a good mystery story. So I bought a couple of collections of short story collections from Agatha Christie that I’d never read before (I’d only read all her full length novels), and started going through all the short stories.
In each case, whether the story had Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, or some other detective, after reading about 6 or 7 short stories, I discovered her secret: she makes you care about the characters. As a reader, you start overlooking the logical solutions to a “puzzle”, and get emotionally involved with the character’s lives instead. As such, you miss things. You miss obvious clues about a person, because you care about them and you’re pulling for them, and you don’t want them to be the murderer. So when the revelation comes, it’s a shock.
She didn’t do this in Murder on the Orient Express. She tried. But there were too many characters, too many suspects, and not enough time to build empathy to be rooting for the murderer, so when the answer comes, I wasn’t jolted like I usually am in her stories.
I think your mistake is in thinking these are even trying to portray murder investigations, in a modern sense. They’re exercises in getting to a solution in which the person with the least apparent motive is in fact the person who dunnit.
Seems like the movie is doing well enough to explore the ideas of a sequel (Death on the Nile).
Poirot survives to investigate another day…
I enjoyed it enough. Can’t really argue with the cast anyway. I had never read the source material so it was all new to me.
So, when I saw the posters for this movie, I realized that I had never read Murder on the Orient Express. And I also realized that while I knew it had a famous twist ending, I couldn’t call to mind what that twist ending was! Imagine! To be able to experience one of the most famous twists of all time, as intended!
But, actually, I guess I kind of did know it, because halfway through the book I found it pretty obvious what the twist would be. I suppose that cultural osmosis, as well as knowing that there was a “twist” coming meant that it lost its actual shock value.
But, reading the book was really interesting from a modern experience design perspective. The way that Poirot lays out the final solution is to say “look at this incredibly elaborate chain of events that had to have been planned with meticulous detail. Why, it’s absurd to think that any one person could have planned that!” To me, that just read as a huge wink from Agatha Christie - the author - to the reader. “I’ve planned dozens of these impossibly elaborate mysteries, and will be writing dozens more. What kind of genius indeed?”
My main thought about the movie is that the ads presented it as a heart-pumping thriller, but the book itself is decidedly lacking in tension. In the book, Poirot basically solves the mystery as a way to kill time while waiting for the train to become un-stuck in the snow.
This looks like a lot of fun. Might even be something I could convince the wife to see. But more likely something I’ll enjoy when I stumble across it on HBO or something. Looks like Branagh is trying to do some kind of Monk-like characterization with Poirot, though.
Well, the story is pretty well known and its obviously a very traditional who-dunnit & thus ticks off all the usual sunday-murder-mystery boxes. For me what makes this movie enjoyable is the large canvas of a lavish production with a great cast. The “epic” cinematic feel sets it apart from TV adaptions that generally have bigger budget constraints. Swooping cameras through mountain vistas, nice closeups of brass railings, distorted shots through window panes…etc (Though unfortuntely there are a few noticeable digital shots that could’ve used a bit more polish, it didn’t bother me much.)
Overall a solid traditional cinematic adaption that is not trying to reinvent the wheel. I’d say go watch it on the big screen, as some of the scope will get lost on a TV.
btw I still have no clue what that music cue was doing in the trailer. That modern vibe was thankfully completely missing from the movie.
Really hope they get around to making another film!
Was not a big fan of this. I liked the first act, its introduction of the characters, the nice recreation of Istanbul and the sweeping vistas. Once the train got stuck, however, the movie turns into a stage play; and I’m simply not fond of stage play delivery on a big screen. There’s something stilted and exaggerated about it that feels unnatural in a movie, especially if it has everyone else standing around like statues waiting for their turn. This becomes more pronounced the further you are in the movie, and the big finale with its The Last Supper setup and Michelle Pfeiffer’s monologue bit and everyone else just being completely passive - utter stage play. If you don’t mind that, you’ll likely enjoy it - but it wasn’t for me. Going into this I had no idea that Brannagh had also directed this, but I figured as much by the time the third act got rolling.
With regards to the actual plot, the resolution feels unearned because it’s not really clear how Poirot would have such vast knowledge about the backstory of every individual.
So where I live there’s a ~10 minute intermission in every movie. Which is mostly a total waste of time, but at least it’s kind of fun to have a little chat with your friends about the movie while it’s still going on. None of us could understand why this was getting hammered in the reviews; it seemed to be really nailing it. It was just so pretty and stylish, the acting was good, and it had just the right amount of light comedy. Clearly not a movie that’s going to take itself too seriously.
And then the second half was just total rubbish. There are all these totally unnecessary changes that make no sense (a fucking chase scene?!). And it becomes obvious that all the time spent on those lavish scenes early on was time away from the actual mystery and investigation. They don’t even properly establish a timeline of the night of the murder, which should be an absolute minimum for this kind of thing to work.
So my friends who didn’t know the plot ended up confused and feeling the movie was unfair. Which is a shame, because I think that when done properly, this is actually a good story.
Oh, and this movie couldn’t even get the cheesy sequel setup right! You can’t do Death on the Nile with Poirot arriving on the scene days after the fact. Just won’t work. And second, I was already totally baffled that an Agatha Christie movie could get made with that cast and those production values. There’s no way it gets repeated after this turkey.
I read almost all Hercule Poirot novels, love the Peter Ustinov Poirot movies and Albert Finneys Orient Express from the 70s … so I was looking forward to it.
Yeah, it kind of tells the story… but really, there are no memorable moments or lines, and the prologue was dumb (this public investigation thing)…
And the moustache, terrible…I had so much fun when I watched Finney and his cast recently, they had great scenes and dialogues…
I hope they really don’t do Death on the Nile … that’s another perfect adaption from the 70s.
Sad to see that the movie didn’t seem to work for most of you. I agree that its not a 5 star adaptation, but I still enjoyed seeing it on the big screen despite the weaknesses.
I didn’t care for the prologue, and I was rolling my eyes a bit at the finale, but I’m quite glad I saw this in the theater. It really is a gorgeous looking film, and there are far worse ways to spend two hours.
What I’d give for a film adaptation of The Last Express with equal budget and production values…
No matter the bad reviews here, I’ve been looking forward to this movie for a long time, and still am. Poirot is my favourite detective, and this looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been saving this up for christmas, and I’ll go see it at a theater with my mum and sister. I think I’m actually looking more forward to seeing this, than actual Christmas day.