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Murder on the Orient Express kills competition, but makes changes

Veterans+Day+offered+an+opportunity+for+an+early+viewing+of+Murder+on+the+Orient+Express+It+opened+to+a+wide+audience+the+previous+night.
Veterans Day offered an opportunity for an early viewing of Murder on the Orient Express It opened to a wide audience the previous night.

Veterans Day offered an opportunity for an early viewing of Murder on the Orient Express It opened to a wide audience the previous night.

Stephanie Wang

Stephanie Wang

Veterans Day offered an opportunity for an early viewing of Murder on the Orient Express It opened to a wide audience the previous night.

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The famous moustache is back, and bigger than ever–in more ways than one.  Agatha Christie’s famous novel Murder on the Orient Express has been adapted countless times to film, but the story has received a fresh take with a list of top tier actors–including Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad and Willem Dafoe.

Combined with this all-star cast, Kenneth Branagh’s rendition of the novel and the twist ending was visually stunning, but often spent too much time developing Poirot’s character to properly flesh out the process behind the mystery and the connections behind the case.

(Warning–spoilers ahead.)

The biggest thing on screen was not any one suspect, but rather Poirot himself.  While many debate about the large size of Poirot’s moustache compared to previous renditions, it was more of the extensive time spent on Poirot himself and his backstory that was confusing.  The humor was kept up through Poirot’s quirks and interactions with the rest of the cast, but some instances would have been better focused on the rich cast rather than the detective.  The creation of a love interest for Poirot, Katherine, appeared only a few times in photographs and seemed of dubious value in the plot.

The cinematography was beautiful–full of overhead shots and establishing shots of the train.  The cast, too, was outstanding, even though they had little screen time to themselves.

The biggest problem with the movie was how the plot and the discovery of the crime was handled.  Even as someone who already knew how the story would end, some instances and connections were glossed over and seemed too rushed to understand.  For example, the clue of the burned paper was only displayed for a split second so the connection of Ratchett to Cassetti was difficult to grasp.  Rather than discussing in detail how Poirot figured out the crime, the movie dramatized it with action scenes and dramatic moments to keep its audience entertained.

Other changes, although less pertinent, were the changing of the Swedish missionary Greta Ohlsson to a Spanish missionary by the name of Pilar Estravados, as well as the Italian car salesman Antonio Foscarelli to Biniamino Marquez.  Colonel Arbuthnot was became a doctor, giving him a greater role in the solving of the murder.  Other variations to the story could be seen to give the film more action and attention-grabbing sequences, like the stabbing of Mrs. Hubbard and the gun battle between Poirot and Dr. Arbuthnot.

Many of the scenes were also made more humorous than the original, such as the self-deprecating Monsieur Bouc and the oddly obsessed missionary.  All of these made the movie more entertaining to watch, and some of the references to Christie’s other novels were well-received.

Many audience members were first-time watchers, who were intrigued with the twist ending and the moral dilemma presented in the story.  “Personally, I’ve never seen any adaptations of the novel nor did I know of any adaptations.  It really gives you that classic murder mystery sense, and they did it very, very well.  The ending was a twist.  It was overall a great movie with great cinematography, the costume designs were great, the actors were a great choice and it overall was just a great film,” Monica Lomeli Garcia, senior, said.  

Others were more critical of the film, such as Peter Debruge from Variety.com: “[Branagh] and Green seem overly worried that audiences might lose interest if they followed Christie’s clockwork-precise novel to the letter, concocting a dizzying series of diversions to suggest that the case might unfold otherwise (which, to some extent, it does).” 

Christopher Orr of Atlantic.com said, “The film is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the novel, and some of its variations are improvements. Two characters—a doctor and a soldier—are usefully melded into one, and a secondary stabbing is introduced to good effect. Other alterations, alas, seem more like concessions to the temper of the times: a chase through the trestles of an alpine bridge; a fight and gunshot wound; a pointless backstory about Poirot’s lost love; and an extended bout of moral handwringing once the mystery has been solved.” 

The film, however, has been doing well at the box office, appealing to older audiences.  The film has made “ticket sales of about $28.2 million, or 30 percent more than analysts had expected,” according to the New York Times

 

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Murder on the Orient Express kills competition, but makes changes