MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS MAKES A KILLING AT THE BOX OFFICE; BUT IS IT ANOTHER CLASSIC REMAKE GONE HORRIBLY WRONG?
By Ishveer Sanghera
On the 3rd November, Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel took another chance at the box office and with Kenneth Branagh at the helm, Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff, Daisy Ridley as the governess and Johnny Depp as the sly art dealer, critics were not surprised to see it bring in $211 million USD to date.
However, that’s not to say that everyone’s happy. Rex Reed, of the New York Observer, amongst other comments mentions that “while Branagh’s revised version retains the basic elements, the mistakes he makes are numerous”. As a lover of classic, whodunit tales, Murder on the Orient Express is a stand-out book, but the movie fails to do justice to Christie’s epic novel.
Unfortunately, there were issues littered throughout that true Christie fans would have picked up on immediately. For example, the biggest alteration in character is with Dr Arbuthnot, who is a composite of both the Colonel Arbuthnot, a suspect, and Dr Constantine, a passenger who uses his medical skills to help Poirot throughout the duration of his investigation.
Furthermore, in the book, the setting is confined only on the train itself, as the characters are snowed in, but in the film the train dramatically derails allowing for the passengers to walk freely out of the cabins and for Poirot to interview his suspects in an open-air setting. For critics, this distracts from the original claustrophobic situation, which breaks a part away from the original tale.
But, in truth, the biggest failing is with Hercule Poirot, the little Belgian detective, himself. In Branagh’s version, Poirot is involved personally within the case, with historic acquaintances to Captain Armstrong and drawing links to a photo that the detective keeps on his bedside. Whilst this provides a well-rounded character to the film, the original Poirot is an underestimated, small and eccentric man. Unlike Branagh’s Poirot, the original detective is keen to solve any difficult case that comes his way, and most irritatingly, Poirot in the film requires persuasion and even guilt-tripping to take the case.
Whilst Branagh’s take is a thoughtful and emotional one, it is unlikely to be as successful as other murder-mystery counterparts. Just like other remakes of this beautifully-crafted novel, this film fails to uphold the traditional characteristics of a Christie novel that makes it so appealing.