A few months ago, I was telling Brad and Rachel how excited I was to see Murder on the Orient Express so that I could compare the book and the movie. Brad then told me that I was nerd. You can imagine my indignation. I am working for a company that sells fan art, writes super human novels, and travels the country going to comic cons… I mean come on, how am I the nerdiest one the room right now? Brad then continues to explain how comic books, super heroes, and anime are cool, and that comparing books and movies is not. While I am happy to own my nerdy-ness and awkwardness, I am still struggling to see how obsessing over Fairy Tail, creating original comic books, and building a company on sci-fi novels doesn’t qualify someone as at least somewhat nerdy. Anyways, I digress.
I am pleased, no, thrilled to bring you a comparison of Murder on the Orient Express of the movie and the book. And if you are a book nerd like myself, this is right up your alley.
Agatha Christie’s ability to put together a great mystery is fantastic. Most book lovers praise her work. While she is racist and stereotypical at times, no one can fault her on her surprise endings and turn of events.
Murder on the Orient Express is no different. It was a bold decision to take on such a loved book, especially after the 1935 and 1974 versions of the film, and the TV show Agatha Christie’s Poirot. All of these were well liked.
Reviews on the 2017 Movie
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics – 58% Audience – 59%
Google Reviews: 89% liked it
Overall, this movie did a decent job staying to the storyline. Some of the changes were small and somewhat insignificant. For instance, Poirot and Mary meet initially and how long his mustache was, were just creative interpretations. I would like to focus on differences that changed the plot line.
- The beginning scene where Poirot solves a mystery with grace and wit is not actually found in any of the Agatha Christie novels. However, the way this was solved is very similar to Poirot’s detective style. This style is altered somewhat in the movie by exaggerating Poirot’s need to retire from detective work. At the end of the movie, Poirot is approached about a mystery in Egypt, which is a foreshadowing of the Agatha Christie book: Death on the Nile. Interestingly enough, Fox has plans to create a sequel to Murder on Orient Express based on the later book, Death on the Nile.
- The greatest character change is the merge of Colonel Arbuthnot and Dr. Constantine. They became Dr. Arbuthnot and were played Leslie Odom Jr. (star from the Broadway hit Hamilton). He is also played by a black man (a needed update), which was not he case in the novel. This lead to some race tension and a secret love between Dr. Arbuthnot and the character Mary (played by Daisy Ridley, best known from the latest Star Wars movies).
- An added point of drama for the movie was the commentary on race. Poirot verbally expressing his fears of the murder getting pinned on the Italian and the Black men on the train. He speaks out against this potential injustice with other passengers.
- Interactions between Poirot and M. Bouc are different. M. Bouc is shown as rather selfish and is first introduced with a prostitute. In the book he is much more reserved and not quite as loose with his “pleasures.”
- While in the book the passengers are simply snowed in, the movie portrays them as trapped by an avalanche. This allows passengers to leave the train on several instances.
- Which brings me to my next point. Outside the train there is a chase scene which Poirot is portrayed as a little more action hero than detective. Even with his clever ways to catch the perpetrator, he is far from James Bond in the book.
- In the book, Poirot is actually shot by Colonel Arbuthnot (who is a expert marksman). It was probably best that the doctor did not also “just happen” to be a fantastic shot.
- In the movie, Poirot is also given a personal connection to the murder case. In the book he was only familiar with the case form the newspaper headlines. I personally liked this variation because it made his new change in “right vs. wrong” more believable. His personal connection makes it easier to believe that a man who will not eat an egg that is not perfectly proportioned, would eventually concede to keep the real truth to himself.
- Which leads to the last difference: the ending was much more drawn out than in the book. Poirot wrestles with the truth and allows M. Bouc to make the final decision on what to tell the police. Again, I think emotional tie makes it more believable that he would concede to tell the police that someone else boarded the train, rather than the actual truth, that all the passengers were in on it.
I think going to see this movie is a must for anything Agatha Christie fans. However, the critics were hard on it because the solution’s roll out was not as mind blowing as they were hoping. But if you are as “nerdy” as I am, you’ll want to watch it and decide for yourself.