Question: How do you take a classic story that everyone already knows the ending to and give it fresh zing for the silver screen?
You hire director Kenneth Branagh, of course.
In 2017, Agatha Christie’s 1934 murder mystery cult favorite “Murder on the Orient Express” was brought to life for the first time in over 40 years by 20th Century Fox.
Hollywood has certainly mastered the art of picking up timeless stories, dusting them off, and breathing new life into them in larger than life ways. Moviegoers no longer sit down to passively observe a film, they want to be part of an experience. Modern graphics and ingenious innovations in cinematography have completely revamped what it means to go to the movies even from 10 years ago.
So, with an older story like this, you can’t just script the book and call it a day. Talk about snooze city. Quite the contrary, 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express” boasts steamy exotic locations, beautifully frigid landscapes, and an all-star cast, sprinkled with a few newcomers.
The producers were smart not to visually drag this one into the 21st century and try to pass it off as a modern remake for modern times. Rather, “Murder on the Orient Express” is a period film, holding true to it’s 1930’s roots. It brings all of the classic art deco your artsy little eyes can behold.
The hero and main character of our story, of course, is the world-class French detective Hercule Poirot played by director Kenneth Branagh himself. On the job, he is, of course, all business. Brilliant with his words. Not easily taken in. Seeker of perfection; a Poirot claims was a gift at birth for his future trade, but not functional for “civilian life.” Although he quickly gives the impression that he is not one to be messed with, his tender heart seeps through as the compass from which he discerns truth. It will ultimately be what ends up as the deciding factor for his final judgment.
Being that the story itself is over 80 years old, I think it’s safe to say that I don’t need a spoiler-alert at this point. Of course, the murder ensues, but instead of watching an interrogation between Hercule and the entire passenger train, the camera takes you through the club car from a first-person advantage. The actors give their initial thoughts and shock upon hearing of the murder directly to the camera, which gives the viewer a sense of ownership like being in Poirot’s shoes.
I won’t go into too much detail so that you can partake in the adventure for yourself, but I will say that the food also looked incredible. (And can we talk about the little buzzer that is like having coffee service on tap?)
The backstory itself is heartbreakingly tragic. I almost had to turn the movie off, but some of you murder mystery die-hards most likely already know the storyline and won’t have that problem. At the end, a tormented Hercule serves his own form of “justice” and is whisked off to his next crime to solve no sooner than he steps off the train to bid his fellow travelers (a/k/a murder suspects) adieu.
“Murder on the Orient Express” is now available for viewing on Amazon Prime Video.