Murder on the Orient Express is an iconic novel, although I personally have always found it overrated. The novel is stunningly crafted right until the end, when we are left with a very strange conclusion in which there is no single murderer.
There’s no conclusive evidence that Branagh’s version of the film will remain true to the novel’s plotting, but I imagine this would be the case; there is no point in changing the ending, as this is what makes the novel truly revolutionary and unique.
I have awaited this film adaptation with bated breath ever since it was announced; I am a fan of Branagh’s thanks to his fabulous, if a little dreary, adaptations of Mankell’s Wallander novels, as well as his brilliant Shakespeare work. His cast is impressive; everyone from old favourites such as Judy Dench, Penelope Cruz, Olivia Colman and Derek Jacobi through to shiny new faces such as Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley and Sergei Polunin is in this star studded adaptation, as well as box office favourites Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Willem Dafoe.
All this money and flummery cannot make you a good Agatha Christie adaptation, however. No matter how hard you try, the atmosphere and tension need to be there; without this there is no intrigue and without intrigue there is no point. The trailer is certainly visually stunning, and the voiceover is captivating (although I have to question Branagh’s accent).
Which brings me on to the casting. Pfeiffer is excellent in her brief appearance as Caroline Hubbard, and making the character vampish was a great choice for Hollywood. Depp is uninspiring as ever, and I question Judy Dench’s casting as the Princess- she doesn’t have the shabby, slightly seedy feel you get from the character in the book.
The big question is Poirot himself. Branagh has a hilarious moustache, which makes him look more like Peter Ustinov than David Suchet, the ultimate Poirot. His voice is very forced but it his lack of presence throughout the trailer that bothers me. Although a small man in stature, Christie’s Poirot takes up a great deal of space as he assimilates himself into new situations and generally draws attention to himself in his pursuit of the truth. Although this may simply be artistic imagery used to attract attention during the trailer, I am concerned that the great detective may be reduced to a walking, strangely talking prop in his own case for the sake of a good film.
Only time will tell as to whether I enjoy this film but for now I’d be fascinated to hear the thoughts of any Christie fan: do you think you’ll enjoy the new adaptation?