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, 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, Priness Dragimiroff, and Miss Debenham.
The mindset of the movie makers appears to be "Let's retain some bits of the 1974 classic version of this movie but also let's add some zing to it by adding dark/new elements of our own."
This is by no means 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 a good 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 rare.
I don't mind the addition of having Poirot morally wrestle with his decision to let the guilty go free, as Poirot vigourously disapproved of murder, so that is very plausible. However, 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.
The film finishes much 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. 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.
I do like this film a little more each time I watch it, and as stated earlier, when the film gets more emotive towards the end, I think that's where it gets stronger. Having said that, 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 essence of the denouement in the book. And in this current film, to have the solution delivered via a more casual conversation when they have gathered merely to keep warm does feel a little lacking.
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 was too small. The reason we need to remember that is that it gives us a measure of what she envisaged for the story.
This is a good film that was always going to be a challenge and does fail in quite a few ways. I like it, but filmmakers 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.