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Laramie Movie Scope:
Murder on the Orient Express

Agatha Christie rides again

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 15, 2017 – Agatha Christie, the best selling novelist of all time (According to the Guinness Book of World Records) won't be forgotten anytime soon, especially with the release of the fifth movie adaptation of her 1934 detective novel “Murder on the Orient Express.”

While the 1974 adaptation with an all-star cast has been regarded as the best adaptation so far, this new version features a more humane, vulnerable, introspective version of the famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh (“Dunkirk”) who also directs the film. At a key point in Poirot's emotional journey, look for a photograph of Brahagh's ex-wife, Emma Thompson, in the film.

The film opens with Poirot, the world's greatest detective, using his keen observational skills to solve a crime in Jerusalem that threatens to start a religious riot. From there, his friend, Buoc arranges his passage on the legendary Orient Express train from Istanbul to Paris. Poirot, who is weary, hopes to relax on the trip, but Buoc (played by Tom Bateman of “Snatched”) persuades him to solve a murder that happens during the trip.

The murder of a passenger is discovered on the day the train is hit by an avalanche in the mountains. The train is stuck, and Poirot tries to solve the murder before railroad crews succeed in digging the train out of the snow.

Like every great detective since Sherlock Holmes, Poirot is a keen observer who uses deductive logic, an understanding of human nature and vast stores of facts to solve crimes. He is depicted as a perfectionist who solves crimes in order to put the world “back in balance.” He sees the world not as it is, but how it should be, leading to a lot of disappointments, but he says the way he sees the world is useful in solving crimes.

Anyone who has read the book, or seen an earlier film adaptation of this story knows the solution to this crime, but I will try to avoid spoilers anyway, just in case. It turns out the murder victim has a lot of enemies, and there are a number of people on the train who have reasons to hate the murder victim, so trying to narrow the suspect list down to one person turns out to be very difficult.

The list of suspects is long (though there are none in the second class cars, apparently) including Pilar Estravados (Penélope Cruz of “Volver”) professor Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe of “John Wick”) Princess Dragomiroff (Judi Dench of “Victoria and Abdul”) Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom Jr. of “Red Tails”) Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer of “Mother!”) and Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) among others. The case is further complicated by some people on the train hiding their true backgrounds or their true identities, and practically every suspect is lying to Poirot.

This is a top quality production with great scenery and sets. The snow exteriors were shot at Valle d'Aosta in Italy, but other filming locations included Malta, England and New Zealand. Director of photography, Haris Zambarloukos (“Thor”) used 65mm film cameras (also used in “Dunkirk”) for some shots. A bit of action and some outdoor scenes are also present in the movie, so it is not all static interior shots. It also features a top notch cast, who give solid performances, including Johnny Depp as Edward Ratchett. This is a very solid adaptation of the oft-filmed classic. It rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2017 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)