Neil Bhamoo
Commentary

Film adaptation of classic Agatha Christie novel fails to live up to standards

“Murder on the Orient Express” is a mystery movie based on the novel of the same name. While it was enjoyable and well-produced, it left much to be desired, including a satisfying closure to the story.

The movie centers around a group of passengers aboard a train called The Orient Express that derails, where one of the passengers is murdered. The main protagonist, a detective named Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh, must find out who committed the murder.


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The plot advances well because it shows the clues Poirot finds only when he discovers them. The audience never gets any clues that Poirot doesn’t have. As a result, the audience is never any closer to solving the mystery than the characters in the movie. This allows “Murder on the Orient Express” to be a more immersive experience because the audience can work with the clues they are given to try to figure out the identity of the murderer alongside Poirot.

Despite the serious nature of the movie, there were plenty of comedic moments. Poirot’s perfectionism was a source of laughter among the moviegoers. However, after the murder occurred, the frequency of these moments died down. About a third of the way into the movie, Samuel Ratchett, played by Johnny Depp, was murdered, seemingly because of the enemies he made by selling fake products. When he asked for Poirot’s protection, it was clear that he was going to be murdered, since nobody else was afraid for their lives.

There were moments in the movie when the murderer seemed apparent to the viewer, as well as Poirot. Yet somehow, Poirot reasoned that the suspect wasn’t the killer simply based on his intuition. For example, one of the passengers had the medicine used to drug Ratchett, but Poirot concluded she couldn’t have been the killer simply because “she couldn’t kill a cockroach” — which wasn’t a very convincing argument because she could have been acting and hiding her true nature.

One of the biggest issues with this movie is the way it used Poirot’s “intuition” as a deus ex machina, or a convenient explanation used by the writer for the resolution of the conflict. In this case, it was in determining who murdered Ratchett. For example, Poirot could tell what type of gun somebody was holding from the one second it was brandished in front of him, and as a result he could tell that the person was once a policeman. While it is possible that Poirot has incredible observation, this level is simply too convenient and takes away from the realism. 

The movie was entertaining and riveting throughout, but the ending was quite disappointing. The connections between the passengers is what drives the resolution of this movie, but some of them seemed very forced. For example, the train conductor was in love with a woman who died because of Ratchett. However, the audience wasn’t shown a scene in which Poirot finds or sees any evidence of their love before he came to this conclusion.

Overall, I really enjoyed the movie, despite some minor gripes and concerns — mainly the far-fetched intuitive capabilities of Poirot — and would recommend this movie to anybody who enjoys a good mystery. I would rate this movie a 7 out of 10, mainly because of the overuse of Poirot’s intuition as an explanation for certain realizations.