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Poirot Murder on the Orient Ex [Blu-ray]
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A number of fine actors--Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, Ian Holm, Alfred Molina, Tony Randall--have portrayed detective Hercule Poirot, mystery author Agatha Christie's most popular creation. There have also been several filmed versions of Murder on the Orient Express, perhaps Christie's best-known tale, and although this 2010 made-for-TV adaptation, with David Suchet in the lead role, isn't the best of the lot (that distinction goes by general consensus to the 1974 feature film, with Finney), it's likely the most controversial. That's primarily because director Philip Martin and screenwriter Stewart Harcourt have been less than completely faithful to the source material. Scenes that Christie never wrote have been added (starting right off the top with a nasty bit of business in which Poirot observes a Turkish woman being stoned for allegedly committing adultery); other bits have been somewhat rearranged, while a few characters' motivations and dispositions have changed as well, and while these are alterations that casual viewers won't notice, they are the source of dismay among those who want to see what they've read translated literally to the screen. Meanwhile, in keeping with the dark, rather violent tone, Suchet plays Poirot (a role he has portrayed more than 60 times over the last 20-plus years) as a cold, condescending, self-righteous sleuth who refers to himself in the third person and spends much of his time lurking around corners, spying and eavesdropping as he collects the information that results in a typically brilliant solution to the case--which, as Christie veterans will know, concerns the murder of one Samuel Ratchett, a heinous criminal masquerading as an obnoxious American businessman as he travels with a host of rich and royal swells on the elegant train en route from Istanbul to points west. Overall, the movie's production values are decent (especially for television), the Blu-ray transfer is excellent, and the bonus features are fine, particularly a travelogue about the real Orient Express (hosted by Suchet). But that may not be enough for Christie purists. --Sam Graham
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Top Customer Reviews
I own the Finney version so why did i buy this one? David Suchet is Poirot, The story line is similar but this is a very different version -- it' British! While i appreciate Albert Finney version it;s clearly American w/ Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins and other fine actors. That version is larger than life and "loud" in it's presentation.
Suchet presents a Roman Catholic Poirot we've never seen before who's torn between his morality of letting 12 killers get away w/ murder and bringing a murderer to justice. There's no champagne celebration at the end of the movie, only a subdued Poirot whose finally come to terms w/ his conscious. Is it right to let 12 murderers escape in order to bring vigilante justice to a cold case? This version has a very different feel to it. We see Poirot wrestle w/ God and his dilemma.
This version is "quiet" and thoughtprovoking. I appreciate both; one as American and over-the-top; one as subdued and intellectual w/ dry British wit. No regrets.
Special features: David Suchet host a tour of the orient express and tells it's history (47 min.) 120 years w/ Agatha Christie; filmographies and cast biographies.
By the way this movie is also available in Poirot Movies series 5 so don't buy both unless you plan to give one copy of this flick away.
That being said, this was a horrible version of this classic.
If you want to see it done right, buy the 1974 Albert Finney version. It has lots of stars in it (Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, etc.) and it, at least, follows Christie's plot!!
I was so looking forward to seeing Suchet's version of this story, but sadly, it was very disappointing. I sincerely hope they do a better job with Curtain and The Big Four!!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Very first scene ... irrelevant to the rest of the film.
Stoning the adulteress in Istanbul ... a strange addition that is very un-Christie. She would never have written that.
M. Bouc's accent and general demeanour ... very annoying.
Making the doctor a conspirator ... a poor addition; his attempts to distract Poirot are dumb.
This movie does not get a chance to develop the CHARACTERS, many of whom are skimmed over with the barest of participation in the film. For example, Count & Countess Andrenyi are barely in the film at all. Countess Andrenyi is Sonia Armstrong's sister, which in the context of the story is major, and yet she's barely in the film. Characterisation was a big part of Agatha Christie novels, and it just doesn't happen much here. Other than Poirot of course, the most prominent characterisations in the film are the conductor Michel, Princess Dragimiroff, and Miss Debenham.
The mindset of the movie makers appears to be "Let's retain some bits of the 1974 movie but also let's add some zing to it by adding dark/new elements of our own."
This isn't a bad movie, but when doing a remake of a classic, it is reasonable and fair that it be marked a little more stringently. To be sure, this is nowhere near the brilliance of Sidney Lumet's 1974 masterpiece. But having said that, it is still an okay film, even if it does have me asking several times "Why on earth did they do THAT?" Occasionally there are things said that are portrayed in a more plausible context than the 1974 version of the film, but these are very rare.
Because Poirot disapproved of murder, having him morally wrestle with his decision to let the guilty go free is plausible, but it's overplayed too heavily here. It's strange that he intensely freaks out at the idea, and then goes ahead and does it. Also, adding the religious element distracts from the heart of the story. In short, it's just not necessary. And it seems out of context. When it happens, it's very unexpected, but not in a good way. You kind of think "Huh???!" It feels out of whack with the rest of the film.
The scene where Ratchett tries to get Poirot to take on a job for him is very poorly done, very weak indeed. Just slapping cash on the bar with very little dialogue; that may be the weakest scene in the film. Overall it feels like this film is TRYING TOO HARD, and so a whole lot of changes have been made to try and be hip, cool, edgey, dark, whatever. For those who are interested, here are some examples of new additions in this movie ...
- The mob-rule stoning of the woman in Istanbul.
- The doctor being among the guilty party.
- The doctor being merely an obstetrician instead of a fully-fledged doctor equipped for such a case.
- Miss Debenham being the brains behind the crime instead of Mrs Hubbard.
- Princess Dragimiroff offering herself as sacrifice instead of Mrs Hubbard.
- Mrs Hubbard being very low-key instead of a nagging loudmouth.
- Poirot not accorded much respect (Bouc says mockingly "He's a Belgian" while laughing at him, among other examples).
- The investigation being intruded on instead of Poirot always in command (especially by the doctor).
- The religious element.
- Foscarelli being the boyfriend of the housemaid.
- The "international feel" isn't very present. It lacks the international grandeur this story is known for.
- Ratchett being remorseful.
- Mr Hardman is missing.
- And other scenes and lines of dialogue that come across fairly weak.
The music in the film is too often in the urgent-scary-drama-at-fever-pitch mode. It lacks light and shade; lacks lighter moments. I think that the darker moments in the film would work better if the whole film wasn't so constantly in dark mode. It's a bit much at times.
The film finishes a bit stronger than it starts. From the time the passengers gather in the dining car and start discussing the case with Poirot, then it gathers momentum a bit. So that's perhaps the last quarter of the film.
By the way, there's a few outdoor train scenes which are very obviously done with CGI. This is not a major turn off, but it does take away from the old-world warmth that a film like this needs.
With a brilliant 1934 novel and a brilliant 1974 original film to be measured against, this movie does okay, but not great. When David Suchet was previously asked which story he would most like to film, he answered "Murder on the Orient Express". His answer suggests that he was aware of the challenge of doing a remake of what was at the time the most successful British film of all time. So after 21 years of making this Poirot series, you can understand why they waited so long to attempt this one.
In the denouement of the original 1974 film where the mystery is revealed, Albert Finney's long monologue is a tour de force performance that brilliantly captures the denouement in the book. In this current film, to have the solution delivered via a more casual conversation when they have gathered merely to keep warm lacks the classic Christie big denouement at the end.
We need to remember that Agatha Christie herself, who was usually very critical of film adaptations of her novels, loved the Sidney Lumet 1974 version of this story. She called Albert Finney's performance "wonderful" and her one small criticism of the film was that his moustache wasn't big enough. The reason we need to remember that is that it gives us a measure of what she envisaged for the story.
This is an okay film that was always going to be a challenge and does fail in quite a few ways. Filmmakers and screenwriters trying to make their mark or be cool should perhaps pay a little more respect to the biggest selling novelist of all time, and spend more time condensing Agatha Christie's story, and less time coming up with new ideas of their own.
Here we have a Poirot who is so so bitter and angry it actually detracts - and was distracting - from his depiction. His cynicism was frankly off putting to the point I could not even concentrate on the mystery. So, even had these "improvements" added to the script, Poirot himself was, in my opinion, intolerable to watch.
Every iota of intelligence, suspense or enjoyment was wrung out of this by the acting and unwarranted changes. It was nothing more than sensationalistic rubbish, more resembling something I should expect to see from a dumbed down Hollywood gem than anything based on classic British literature. Avoid this one at all costs. The 1979 movie remains the far better option.
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