Murder on the Orient Impressed

My mate Kenny has dazzled with his latest effort, an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s most stirring novel. A starrier cast you’ll never see, with each given their chance to twinkle in the limelight. Centre stage was the man himself, the sharp-eyed, moustachioed wonder that is Hercule Poirot – who was often amusingly called Hercules instead of Hercule (“I do not slay lions”)!! Branagh cunningly employed all sorts of witty motifs to remind us, and his co-passengers, of his meticulous attention to detail. He’d always compare the sizes of his eggs – heaven help the chicken who laid for him uneven eggs! He’d hold other men’s dress sense to his own impeccably high standards, often asking them to straighten their tie. This is the man blighted with the double-edged virtue of being able to see the imperfections of life ‘like the nose on one’s face’. It is such an imperfection that allows him to deduce in the opening scene in Jerusalem that ‘the one about the rabbi, the imam and the priest’ turned out to be the case of the dodgy copper! Luckily the lout, having somehow evaded the grips of an entire angry mob, was floored because Poirot had shrewdly anticipated the exact path of his flight and jammed into the Wailing Wall his trusty walking stick – the genius detective’s equivalent of the sonic screwdriver.


After a quick hop, skip and a jump to ‘Stamboul’ (I loved the authentic way everyone dropped the ‘i’ from Istanbul), Poirot was finally ready for his holiday. The gorgeous array of Turkish food (well, actually just bread really) enticed the little Belgian to a period of well-earned repose, but unfortunately not for long!! Ever in demand he found himself called to attend to a case back in London. A consummate master of his trade, he could easily divine this merely from the presence of his dumbfounded messenger. A creature of comforts, Hercule was naturally able talk his way onto a first-class compartment on the Orient Express, courtesy of the rakish heir to the Orient Express trainline Bouc (Tom Bateman). This rogue has little interest in the well-behaved and virtuous, as evidenced by his short-lived interaction with Penelope Cruz as the born-again Catholic missionary with a past. We will soon find, as the train wends its way through the Balkan states, that every one of the occupants aboard the Express has something to hide…

When Poirot first sets foot on the famous train we are treated to a lavish single-shot scene as he first makes acquaintance with his co-passengers for the three-day journey; first of all he engages in conversation with Michelle Pfeiffer as the aging seductress Caroline Hubbard (if that is her real name!). As the camera pans along the outside of the train tracking Poirot’s progress towards his lodgings, we are introduced to the hubbub that fills the luxury locomotive. I will take this opportunity to comment of the fabulous medley of characters that grace this film. The phenomenal Judi Dench is the Countess Dragomiroff with her entourage of pampered pooches …and Olivia Coleman (as her devoted German handmaiden)! Josh Gad is the shifty right-hand man to Johnny Depp’s dodgy-dealing Ratchett. Daisy Ridley is charming as the geographer-Governess whom Poirot meets on the boat to Stamboul, a boat they shared with Leslie Odom Jr. as the enigmatic doctor Arbuthnot. Willem Dafoe is the vile, racist kraut Professor Gerhard Hardman, who refuses to sit opposite the Doctor on account of the colour of his skin. There were others and they were also excellent, darling!

After unsuccessfully soliciting Poirot for his assistance as a personal bodyguard, Ratchett is killed in mysterious circumstances. He is stabbed 12 times and the crime scene is littered with pertinent, yet puzzling clues: the watch stopped at 1.15, the pipe-cleaner, the open window, and a burnt message. Why didn’t the murdered man protect himself? Where’s the sign of struggle? This fascinating conundrum was way beyond us lowly audience, so we left it to the wily wizard to deduce the answer through logical reasoning and perceptive questioning. As the investigation progresses it becomes clear that the details of this murder case are intimately intertwined with another famous murder case involving the abduction of Daisy Armstrong. It transpires that Ratchett was not Ratchett at all, but Cassetti, the man guilty of this dastardly deed.

Of course Branagh/Hercule(s) works this all out, by his guile and gumption. He deduces that he has been sharing a train with twelve remorseless killers! What my mate Kenny was so clever in doing was to make this moment a moralistic crisis for the Belgian, famed for his unwavering commitment to the rule of law. What does he do? Condemn all twelve to the hangman’s rope? Or invent an alternative explanation which leaves an invented murderer at large for good? Of course he makes the right decision. Poirot’s human integrity outweighs that of his profession in the enforcement of law. Amor omnia vincit!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Hannah
    Dec 08, 2017 @ 08:04:29

    Nice to see a post from chaileaves after a long time. Nice review, now must go and see the film!


    Sent from my phone…



    Dec 08, 2017 @ 09:34:27

    Hi Chris. I liked the film a lot, I saw it in Australia! But I had to warn Lucy not to read your crit. She does not know the plot! Stephen

    Sent from my iPad



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