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
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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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Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express" is one of her books that was perfect for big screen. That's why early on we had Sidney Lumet's version in 1974 with Albert Finney as Poirot, and now the new episode with the ever magnificent David Suchet in that role.
Between the two versions, the 1974 film remained true to the original story - and it is still one of the best adaptations of Christie's work prior to the series with Suchet. Now those familiar with Christie's work know that her books are focused on the mystery that is to be solved and nothing else. There is no character development aside from Poirot himself, and every side story is either for comic relief or to distract you from an important clue. The 1974 film followed the same approach, with every turn and every incident only magnifying the mystery at hand. The 1974 film keeps you thrilled and curious, with a great end scene (common in all Christie's stories) where Poirot discovers the truth. And it ends there. No hidden philosophical message. No personal conflict. Just a mystery solved.
The new (2010) TV version seems, well, different. The story has been turned from a pure mystery into a moral judgement about justice, God and taking law into your own hand. The focus on Poirot's Catholicism (which does not appear in any Christie's book) and the question of whether he will tell the truth or not - something that in the original story is left to the train boss and passengers - makes it quite a different story from the original.
It would have been okay to have a different take on the murder on the orient express if the new story had been told with the same magnificence as the original story. Unfortunately this was not true. First of all, 1.5 hour is not sufficient to properly develop a moral story as the director wanted to say. Perhaps if it was a big screen movie and an hour longer, it might have turned better. Second, in developing the moral/religious line of the story, the director has taken out a great deal of focus and thrill of the mystery story. The end scenes, especially the reaction of the colonel to Poirot's discovery of truth, is in line with the moral message of the film but looks ridiculous to veteran Poirot fans, and so is Poirot's hesitation at the end on what to do. A deep scene, but uncharacteristic of Poirot.
Overall, seasoned Poirot fans will be disappointed as this film is not really Poirot or Christie. Not even a good mystery. Others who like a film about moral judgements may enjoy it.
I was also shocked to see how old Suchet looked in this movie. I am not sure how longer he plans to play Poirot but the way he looks is now perfect to play Poirot in "Curtain", his last case.
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