**Double Feature is a review of both the book and its movie adaptation.**
I’ve seen the movie The Prestige roughly eight times. Only the Labyrinth can compete with that number.
With The Prestige (a drama/mystery about dueling magicians from Christopher Nolan), even though I know the ending, the story and layers are so compelling that I’m blown away by the details and how everything comes together. The ending reveal just gives the story a different context, and one that made me go back to the theaters twice (and dragged friends with me!). Once I knew the real story, I was able to truly appreciate the work that Nolan put into The Prestige.
To some degree, this is what I’m hoping for with mystery/thriller books. I just feel like most mysteries I’ve read (especially modern) fall apart once everything is revealed. A good mystery/thriller should be able to stand on its own, even if you know all the spoilers.
And knowing all the spoilers made me concerned about reading Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. Roughly ten years ago I saw the 1974 movie and was blown away, but I was worried that I had taken away from the experience of reading the classic book.
With a new movie coming out, I decided it was time to give Christie’s masterpiece a shot.
The Book (1934)
Murder on the Orient Express follows Detective Hercule Poirot, who unexpectedly has to make a detour and ends up last minute on the Orient Express. When in the middle of the night a millionaire is stabbed to death, Poirot is the only one who can figure out what happened and who out of the twelve passengers committed murder.
There’s a few elements that stuck out to me: the array of characters, the setting, and the actual mystery itself, but what I loved most was Poirot’s process of figuring out what happened. Maybe its because I’m completely over modern day detective stories (I couldn’t even get through the last season of Sherlock, it made my blood boil), but I liked that Poirot took everything a step at a time. Even the train’s owner, M. Bouc, wanted to jump around, but Poirot always kept his eyes straight.
The whole second section is just a series of interviews with each passenger of the Istanbul-Calais train car. As Poirot is trying to fill in the gaps that the confusing evidence left behind, the reader starts to understand how sharp Poirot is and how he connects the information he is given.
I was afraid that since I already knew the story that I would be bored, but that wasn’t the case at all. I flew threw the story, remembering how everything comes together.
The Movie (2017)
Oh boy, this movie. I think I’m in the minority when I state that I didn’t really like Kenneth Branagh’s version of Murder on the Orient Express. I had many problems, mostly stemming from the direction and construction of the story.
In a way, I can see where Branagh was going, in that the novel is very English, and this adaptation had an American sensibility to it. Very stylish, emotional (acting with a capital A), a rushed process, more action and so forth. I actually would’ve of liked a more emotional dive into the characters, but I felt that much of the cast is wasted.
In the beginning of the movie we meet Poirot at the end of solving a case and the whole ordeal just seemed like a waste of time. The case itself didn’t seem that difficult, but it’s suppose to clue the audience on how clever he is? How about the audience figures that out while Poirot is solving the Orient Express case?
The story should have started immediately with Poirot having to change his plans and board the Orient Express. This would have given more time to the story, instead of getting a jumbled mess towards the end. There’s some pieces of information that Poirot just seemingly pulls out of his ass because the time isn’t given to show how he got from A to B. I don’t want the modern day Sherlock, I want to see actual detective work!
I will be kind and give this adaptation one mark for it, and that is in the area of emotion. The book ends pretty abruptly, so the emotional fall-out of the reveal is never fully realized. I didn’t realize until I saw this adaptation that I personally needed a bit more catharsis. In an effort not to spoil the ending, I will just say that one character in particular got to me emotionally after the big reveal happens.
Final Verdict: Agatha Christie has her own library of books, but if you can only read one I would say it has to be Murder on the Orient Express (closely followed by And Then There Was None). In terms of movie adaptations, I still have to give it to the 1974 version. Sorry Kenneth Branagh.