Railway director and fellow Belgian Monsieur Bouc secures Poirot a last minute berth on the Orient Express, returning to England from Istanbul. Ratchett, an abrasive American businessman, traveling with his valet and male secretary, tries to secure Poirot's services as he fears that his life is in danger. Poirot turns him down, but the next morning, whilst the train is stuck in a snowdrift in Serbia, Ratchett is found stabbed to death. There is vague talk of a man seen fleeing the train, but many of the passengers in Poirot's compartment do not appear to know either Ratchett or each other, so what could the motive be? Poirot, assisted by Bouc and Dr. Constantine, attempts to find out. Written by
don @ minifie-1
The original 1934 title was "Murder on the Calais Coach" because it was feared that readers would confuse it with "Stamboul Train" by Graham Greene, published in 1932. See more »
A few moments before the train hits the snowdrift it is seen moving across the screen from right to left surrounded by a landscape which, much as is it beautiful, doesn't at all correspond to the actual topography of that part of former Yugoslavia. The land there is predominantly fertile plains and there are most certainly no snowy mountains on the horizon to be seen. See more »
No! Lieutenant, you lie to Poirot. You say that you were in the barracks by midnight, but Poirot has proved this to be false. At a quarter to one in the morning you were seen over two miles away in the company of the woman who died. General, this is not a murder, as is suggested by the Palestinian police, but I do believe the lieutenant lied about his whereabouts, first out of panic and then, by sticking to this *lie*, but reinforcing it with *lie* after *lie* for weeks and weeks ...
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I have only been an occasional follower of the TV movies with Suchet, but have seen enough to know that he delivers an excellent Poirot. Nonetheless, this episode had to follow in the rather large footsteps of an all-star classic predecessor, and I was curious on how it would accomplish it.
The main twist here is that unlike most Poirot-themed works, this really isn't a whodunnit by any stretch of the imagination. While the 1974 version keeps the viewer in the dark about at least Poirot's own reasoning until the big triumphant showdown, the 2010 adaptation gradually let's the viewer in on the solution, and really does not make much of a mystery about it. Originally I thought it was a bit of a let-down, which it is if you expect the usual Orient Express arc of confusion about the various clues and statements and suspects followed by Poirot's Grand Revelation.
However, the point of this Orient Express adventure is not to solve a murder, but to explore much deeper notions of justice and the law, revenge, multiculturalism, and doing what is right. The theme is introduced right at the opening scene, when Poirot's genius at solving a crime proves to have disastrous consequences. We then see him react to a stoning of a woman in Istanbul, and these two events frame his own path as he solves the mystery of what happens in the Orient Express.
In the course of this, Suchet shows some of the finest acting I have seen from him (and that says a lot), thinking about it still sends chills down my spine. He is a remarkable actor, and he shows us some sides of Poirot that are fresh and new and interesting (Christie purists might say that they are also not authentic, but it would seem reasonable to frame the wrestling with morality of a Belgian gentleman of the time in the context of Catholicism, which helpfully provides visuals and props for it, too, so I find it excusable).
In summary, the whodunnit crime bit is being handled mostly perfunctorily, the focus of this piece is on the morality surrounding this crime, and here it relies heavily on the enormous breadth and depth of Suchet to make the point. Eminently watchable, not just for fans.
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