After traveling on the Blue Train from Calais to Nice, Hercule Poirot is pressed into service to help solve the murder of heiress Ruth Kettering who is found savagely beaten in her compartment. She was the daughter of wealthy industrialist Rufus Van Alden and very much wanted a divorce. Both her husband and her lover were on the train but she had changed rooms with another passenger, Katherine Grey, so the question naturally arises as to whether she was the intended victim. Grey may also have had enemies as she had recently inherited a very large sum of money and greedy relatives had suddenly taken a interest in her. When an attempt is subsequently made on Grey's life, this appears to the case but Poirot methodically sifts through all of the clues to determine the motive and identify the killer. Written by
In the brief making-of feature included with the DVD of this episode, the screenwriter points out that Agatha Christie considered this one of her weakest novels, and that they had taken quite a few liberties in its adaptation. Purists will probably be angry at this, but it's my guess (never having read the book, mind you) that most of the changes must have been improvements. Because the final story presented on the screen is far from Christie's worst - in fact, it is closer to her best.
Although I liked "Sad Cypress" and "The Hollow" very much, it was mostly due to the direction and performances - the mysteries, though undeniably very clever (especially in their killing methods), felt somewhat thin. The "Mystery of the Blue Train" is the exact opposite of thin: it presents a complex web of interconnected plots and subplots, and a wide variety of characters / suspects, all of them colorfully brought to life by a first-rate cast (truly, there is not one weak performance in this film). You're not even sure who is going to get bumped off until he / she does! David Suchet gets the chance to do one of his showiest "Poirot gathering all the suspects, accusing everyone and taking his sweet time before revealing the truth" sequences at the end, and he's clearly enjoying himself after the low-key performance he has given up to that point in the film. There are also some "modern" elements introduced - more cursing than before, and even some (practically unnoticeable) CGI - but somehow everything works like a charm.
Poirot - 10th season and still going strong! (***)
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