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Murder On The Orient Express: A Review

Written by: Azimah Affandi

Murder on the Orient Express is a 2017 crime mystery film directed by Kenneth Branagh with a screenplay by Michael Green, based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Agatha Christie.

The film’s director himself played the protagonist in the film, named, Hercule Poirot. The film which produced in the year 2017 was actually the fourth adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ after the 1974 film, a 2001 TV film version, and a 2010 episode of the television series Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

Murder On The Orient Express first cover (1934)

The story of Murder on the Orient Express is about Hercule Poirot, a world-renowned detective seeks to solve a murder on the famous trans-European train in the 1930s.

There is a number of changes have been made in the 2017 version of Murder on the Orient Express film from the 1934 novel.



1. The Introduction Scene

In the book, Agatha Christie introduced the main character, Hercule Poirot, in the first few chapters of the book. From the opening of both novel and movie, it can be seen that few substitutions were made.

The original opening scene from the novel was, Hercule Poirot was on his way to board the train to Stamboul (Istanbul) accompanied by Lieutenant Dubosc, who had been delegated the duty of seeing off Hercule Poirot by Taurus Express. At the same time, the author described Poirot as a Belgian, short, ridiculous-looking and ‘egg-shaped’ head detective.

The addition and substitutions made in the opening of the film were, Hercule Poirot was shown as a tall Belgian man with a Derby walking stick and a perfectionist who obsessed by symmetry, that when he accidentally stepped his right foot in a heap of manure, he had to put in the other one, too, for the sake of balance.

Hence, it is shown that instead of a short and ridiculous-looking man in the novel, Poirot was a tall man and a perfectionist detective. Plus, instead of using the Taurus Express train, Hercule Poirot was using a boat to go to Stamboul, and instead of being accompanied by a Lieutenant to the train, Poirot refused to be escorted by a captain to the boat.

The scene in the film, where Poirot managed to reveal and solved a theft case in Jerusalem using his brilliant skills of observation and deductive reasoning was actually the addition made in the opening of the film so the audiences could see the personality and the greatness of the detective. Besides, there is one characteristic of Hercule Poirot that Kenneth Branagh lifted directly from his source material, which is the famous moustache, as described in the book as an enormous, upward curled moustache which the detective was very proud of.


2. The Ending Scene

In the movie, the ending took place on the tracks in the tunnel, instead of in the dining-car in the novel and there were also weapons.

The Orient Express train, in the novel, was described to be stranded because it was snowed in, while in the movie, the train was derailed because of an avalanche not far from the tunnel. In the tunnel, Hercule Poirot revealed everything about who murdered Samuel Ratchett on the train and what led to the murder.

Just like in the novel, Poirot managed to investigate every single thing about the 12 passengers’ relation with Armstrong’s family. 12 of them decided to murder Samuel Ratchett on the train, who was actually Cassetti, the man who kidnapped and murdered little Daisy Armstrong, daughter of Colonel John Armstrong and Sonia Armstrong. Sonia Armstrong was pregnant when she received the news and the shock sent her into the premature labour. Neither she nor her baby survived. Colonel John Armstrong later was found dead of a gunshot wound, self-inflicted.

12 of them have their own close relationship with the family which made them hold their revenge towards Cassetti for murdering the child, that finally destroyed the whole family.

Finally, Poirot had come to two possible solutions of the murder case on the train. The ending of the novel was more subdued, with Poirot giving two solutions of the crime: one with an escaped killer and one with the truth. M. Bouc and Dr Constantine decided to go with the escaped killer theory.

In the movie, Poirot also came out with two solutions. First was the lone assassin who made his escape. There was also an addition made in the movie, where Poirot put down his weapon on the table in front of them and he told them that if they wish to go free without punishment for the crime, then they must only commit one more, which was to shoot him or he will tell the truth to the police. That was actually the second solution.

Mrs Hubbard who was actually Linda Arden, mother to Sonia Armstrong and grandmother to Daisy Armstrong, took the gun and tried to shoot herself but failed. It was Mrs Hubbard who planned everything. She recruited other 11 persons to be together with her to murder Samuel Ratchett. Poirot later said that the scale of justice, in this murder case, cannot be evenly weighed. There were no killers, only people who deserve the chance to heal.

He then decided to tell the police the first solution to the crime and they accepted it, where the lone assassin who made his escape. Thus, it can be seen that ending scene in the tunnel and the weapon were all new, very dramatic and well placed.

Personally, the adaptation made was more dramatic and more interesting than the novel itself. It can be seen, based on the novel, the screenwriter made a lot of substitutions in the film compared to the additions and deletions.



What do you think about the movie? Do leave a comment below!


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