Murder on the Orient Express, Movie

“Crime is nothing but a fracture in Soul”

Who else but a woman can think of crime in such spiritual terms?  And when that woman is the celebrated mystery writer Agatha Christie, there has to be an interesting turn of events to lead to this observation.

I am talking about the Murder on Orient Express movie, I recently watched on Hotstar. The film was released in 2017 and is based upon the novel of same name by Agatha Christie.  The storyline is one of the sleekest and strongest murder mysteries I have seen till date. And the suspense is so well preserved that I couldn’t guess the real culprit till the story writer decided to divulge the same.

For the uninitiated, Orient Express is a luxury train running from Istanbul to Calais, passing through the picturesque Yugoslavian and French Provinces. The commuters are distinguished elite ranging from an actress to a Count to a princess to doctors and professors. Among them is Ratchett, an American Art Dealer, played by Johnny Depp.

Hercule Poirot is the most intelligent detective alive, as proven by a case he solved in minutes in Jerusalem. He is a close friend of Bouc, the director of Orient Express. Due to some urgent official business, Poirot is called upon to cancel his vacations in Istanbul and must return to Paris. Bouc promises to make up for his loss, by offering him a first class compartment aboard the luxury train.

Here, I must pause and admit that the director of the movie, excelled in depicting the much talked about Orient Express. Fine nuances such as a dedicated conductor for coaches, the reserved secluded compartment for the diplomats, and the stiff upper lip attitude of the elderly Princess, traveling with her dogs and personal assistant were pulled off well.

The paraphernalia in place, Orient Express leaves for Paris and the story chugs along as the characters try to reach out and measure each other with a sharp eye. Ratchett stands out among others owing to his scar ridden face, mean demeanor and cocky attitude. However, slowly he comes across as the most vulnerable person on the train. Apparently he is being threatened by Italian gangsters and reaches out to Poirot to help him out. However, Hercule, who is a good judge of character is put off by Ratchett’s personality and refuses to help him out.

And, barely ten minutes later, the train derails due to a landslide while passing through the snow laden mountains of Yugoslavia and Ratchett is found murdered in a gruesome fashion in his own cabin!

No price for guessing that Bouc solicits the help of his detective friend and the viewers become privy to the methodical logical case solving strategies of Hercule Poirot, a diehard perfectionist!

The movie is engrossing. I was glued to the screen, continuously guessing and failing at solving the murder mystery. Kenneth Branagh, the director as well as the main lead, playing Hercule Poirot tottered around, mouthing dialogues with a heavy accent as rest of the crew and passengers eyed each other with suspicion. The film is almost of two hours duration and boasts of singular settings ranging from the warm crowded markets of Istanbul to the precarious wooden bridge, where the train derails.

Needless to say, I am impressed with the storyline and the picturization of the movie. However, the fact is that the story is not original but rather based upon the famous novel of Agatha Christie, so the filmmaker can hardly be credited for it. The locales were amazing, however that too as I discover, have certain anomalies. The magnificent wooden bridge is not even found in the snowy lands of Yugoslavia but is inherent to America. I also noticed a fumble in the early scenes of the movie, where a certain passenger, who couldn’t make it to the train on time, is talked about and yet when the mystery is revealed at the end, it seemed impossible that any of those passengers could miss the train on that day.

However, the most irritating aspect of the movie is that the talented actors in the league of Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz are wasted. Their roles are miniscule and seem truncated, with the entire gamut lying on Kenneth Branagh, who moves around with Bouc in tow. I sincerely wish more weightage was given to other actors, instead of relegating them as extras in the background.

I haven’t read Christie’s novel Murder on the Orient Express, but my initial experience with her other novel The Secret Adversary gives me hope that book would be far far better than its movie adaptation.

As for now, if you want to know Who killed Ratchett, you can see the movie and enjoy your two hours. And wait for its sequel Death on the Nile, scheduled for release in 2020. Or go ahead and buy the timeless classic and be privy to Agtha’s engaging novel. The suspense is thrilling indeed!

Anupama Sarkar

Leave a Reply