Decatur High School, GA

A Rushed But Lively Train Ride

“Murder on the Orient Express” enjoyably reimagines mystery, despite rocky start

December 3, 2017

More than 80 years after the release of Agatha Christie’s novel, the newest adaptation of “Murder on the Orient Express” wonderfully reimagines the classic mystery in spite of the new film’s rough start.

The movie opens not on a train but in Jerusalem. Detective Hercule Poirot stands in front of the Wailing Wall and faces a crowd desperate to know who stole a valuable from a church. Poirot sticks his cane between the bricks of the wall before exposing the thief using his impeccable logic. The thief tries to escape but runs into the cane and falls just as Poirot had foreseen. This first moment of comic relief in the film starts the movie off right, setting the tone and building up Poirot’s character.

Disappointingly, countless scenes of new characters with no introduction follow the entertaining opening. Some details in the lengthy beginning are consequential later in the film, but most don’t serve any purpose other than to flash the all-star cast in the viewer’s face. The movie misses an opportunity to develop characters and let the audience connect with them by focusing on famous faces.

The emphasis on the protagonist rather than the supporting characters ultimately leaves future character development for a select few. Characters aren’t necessarily one-dimensional, but they don’t change much over time.

Though the viewing audience consisted of older generations familiar with the book, younger viewers could appreciate the stars on screen from recent, popular productions. Such stars include Daisy Ridley (center) of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and Leslie Odom Jr. (right) of “Hamilton.”

Soon enough, the characters board the titular train and one of them dies on the first night. As Poirot investigates the case, new clues emerge, but he casts them aside when his theory changes. With so much information and little time to absorb it, it’s hard to keep the characters’ roles straight. The complexity keeps the ending unpredictable—an important aspect of good mysteries—but it also confuses the viewer.

Despite pacing and characterization issues, “Murder on the Orient Express” delivers Christie’s plot and iconic ending stunningly. Every time the identity of the murderer seems clear, another twist changes the story. The plot is constantly developing even if at too fast a pace.

The thrill of mystery is punctuated by refreshing humor, but the humor does not distract from the gravity of the murder or the drama of the big reveal. When Poirot reveals the truth about the murder, every character tears up. The actors flawlessly portray the raw emotions of the characters and finally show some character development.

Between breathtaking shots of the Alps, bird’s eye views of the characters and never-ending dollying up and down the train, the visuals keep the audience engaged when they otherwise may have given up on following the story.

“Murder on the Orient Express” may start out as bumpy as the train ride it takes place on, but as the train and movie run on, the production highlighting the plot shines through. Familiar with Christie’s story or not, it’s easy for generations young and old to appreciate the original mystery and the new movie.

 

Photos courtesy of Creative Commons.

Contact the writer, Nayeli Shad, at 20nayelishad@csdecatur.net.

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