Sunday, 26 December 2010

Agatha Christie's Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express - review

Murder on the Orient Express, starring David Suchet, the latest Agatha Christie’s Poirot to hit the TV screen, was my choice for Christmas Day viewing. And I’m glad I watched it, since it was one of the best of all the screen versions of any Christie story. Better, certainly, than the film version of the book starring Albert Finney as Poirot, even though the film is not at all bad.

Why was this version so good? The answer lies in the focus on the precise nature of the motive for the crime and the proper response to it. I guess that most readers of this blog are familiar with the central gimmick, but I’m not going to give it away. However, the key theme of the book – as with And Then There Were None – is the idea of doing justice, and in particular the doing of justice in circumstances where conventional legal systems fail to achieve the ‘right’ result.

This is a powerful, perhaps eternal, issue, one that is apt to crop up in all societies, at all times. And Christie’s willingness to take on such issues, in the context of an elaborately and innovatively plotted classic detective story, is one of the reasons for her enduring success. The screenplay homed in on Poirot’s battle with his conscience, and I thought that Suchet’s performance was superb.

The supporting cast, including Eileen Atkins and David Morrissey, was very strong without being over-burdened by star names. The script by Stewart Harcourt was first class, creating a consistently sinister atmosphere. Anyone expecting an entirely cosy experience from watching this version will have been surprised. But also, I hope, impressed.


Anonymous said...

Martin - Thank you for this review. I am so happy you enjoyed this movie. I agree with you that this one was better than the movie and I much, much prefer David Suchet to Albert Finney as Poirot.

You make some very well-taken points about the focus of the movie, too, which was, I think, highly appropriate. A fine review.

Melody Fox (aka the Princess of Rock) said...

hello Martin, season's greetings to you...

I read your review on *Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie) and found it very interesting.

Congratulations on the prizes that you have won and...good Luck in your writing! (;o)*

(no, I don't *Write Under My Own Name* eh eh)

The picture that you took is nice: I must admit that, even though I love colorful seasons, I like Winter too: some Winter seasons are just so...magical (like yours)

smiles from Melody Chrismix
Love Peace Music

Deb said...

I have to say I was not as enthralled with the three most recent Poirots (shown here in the States on "Masterpiece Mystery") as I have been with others in the series. APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH was changed so much from the original it was almost unrecognizable. THIRD GIRL was alright--a few name/character changes, but essentially true to the book. But MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, although faithful to the facts of the book, seemed to me to spend too much time on matters of conscience and faith (in both this one and APPOINTMENT, Poirot kept fingering his rosary beads). I'm not saying these elements do not arise in Christie's work, but I think these recent adaptations stressed them far beyond any element they played in the original books.

Anonymous said...

But why would we want a different Poirot from what David Suchet normally does? It makes no sense for a personality change at this point.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for these comments, and welcome to the blog, Melody.
I've read some negative reviews of last night's show, but I'm sticking to my guns in admiring it.
Deb and Bookwitch, my feeling is that there was no point to the rather inept adaptation of Appointment with Death, because it added nothing of value to the original (which isn't one of the better Poirots anyway) whereas Orient Express is a very familiar story, but it does have a fascinating theme. I felt the theme was brought out very well in this screenplay, and that justified the latest adaptation.

Melody Fox (aka the Princess of Rock) said...

hey there Martin, now I have become your...167th Follower(;o)*

May you walk in sunshine (and only write about crime...) (;o)*

Will come back,

smiles from across the roaming miles from Melody Chrismix,
Love Peace Music

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Melody!