By Sofia Weddle
In today’s modern Hollywood, it’s truly rare to see an old-school murder film; especially when production companies can take advantage of overly avante-garde storylines or simply create another superhero rendition. So what exactly happens when a famed Agatha Christie novel goes on for its fourth movie adaptation (IMDb) with a star-studded cast? It’s either a success or a flop, and critics have already blasted Murder on the Orient Express hard. Variety journalist Peter Debruge bluntly states that “the movie is a failure overall, juggling too many characters to keep straight, and botching the last act so badly that those who go in blind may well walk out not having understood its infamous twist ending”. However, was the film really deserving of its lackluster IMDb 6.8/10 rating, or is the movie critic community pointlessly searching for an Oscar nominee film in a simple murder mystery?
Set on the Orient Express train traversing from Istanbul and across Europe, detective Hercule Poirot investigates thirteen train passengers and suspects to solve the confusing murder of Mr. Ratchett; a fake art dealer and millionaire. Agatha Christie, the late mystery writer, constructed stories of detective Hercule Poirot and his trials in investigating confounding murders. According to Mr. Singleton, an English 12 teacher at Glenelg High School, Agatha Christie is “prominent as a mystery writer because she found a formula that worked… She found a character that worked in Hercule Poirot… Is it literature? Probably not. Does that matter? No, it doesn’t matter. It’s a good thing to read. People read it for escapism and because they enjoy it”. The latest retelling of one of her most famous books, Murder on the Orient Express, has garnered much controversy over its redundancy, as well as much publicity due to its acclaimed cast of Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Josh Gad, Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, and Olivia Colman. Although a fourth adaptation may seem unnecessary, and it might well be, Murder on the Orient Express is a compelling movie when looked at alone. While the entirety of the film itself is probably not Oscar-worthy, the set and graphics should be in the running.
Throughout the film, director Kenneth Branagh delivers heart-pounding suspense and mystique combined with amusing quips and gorgeous scenery. After every one of Poirot’s questionings, the audience second-guesses their own suspicions and is left clueless as to the murderer’s identity up until the final reveal. Coupled with this artistic tension, the snowy mountain landscapes surely fed the eyes of every viewer, leaving a great desire to ride the real Orient Express (or simply vacation to a fake-snow ski resort). The acting was superb in every way as well, and left hardly anything to be desired. But honestly, what more could one expect from the likes of Judi Dench (Hollywood royalty) or Johnny Depp (the world’s favorite pirate).
So yes. Murder on the Orient Express may not have been necessary to remake again, but critics can’t deny its entertainment value or stunning production. And staying true to the film industry, Murder on the Orient Express isn’t where Hercule Poirot’s mysteries end: the end of the movie brings him an invitation to the Nile where (surprise!) a murder has occurred. Sound familiar, Agatha Christie fans? But all-in-all, in the new age of action-obsessed movie junkies and the overly complex real world, maybe a journey back to old Hollywood with Murder on the Orient Express is what we need. So I say bring on the no-frills, old-school murder mysteries; the more Agatha Christie, the better.