Monday, May 14, 2012

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express; crime, USA, 1974; D: Sidney Lumet, S: Albert Finney, Martin Balsam, Lauren Bacall, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Anthony Perkins, Sean Connery, John Gielgud, Jacqueline Bisset, Michael York, Rachel Roberts, Vanessa Redgrave, Ingrid Bergman, Richard Widmark

On his way to England from Istanbul, famous detective Hercule Poirot boards a train and meets his friend Bianchi. During the night, between Vinkovci and Slavonski Brod, a passenger is killed, Mr. Ratchett, but not discovered until morning, when the train is stuck in snow. Poirot discovers that Ratchett was a mobster who ordered the kidnapping of Mrs. Armstrong's child a few years ago, and that almost all passengers had a motive to kill him, among them Mrs. Armstrong's sister, cook and mother. It turns out it was a 'joint criminal enterprise', but Poirot allows Bianchi to accept an alternative, more simple view that it might have been a mobster murder.

"Murder on the Orient Express" is in some circles considered to be one of the best adaptations of Agatha Christie's crime-mystery novels, with Albert Finney receiving an Oscar nod for best actor - the first and till date the only actor for playing Hercule Poirot - and Ingrid Bergman even winning the award - along with a BAFTA - for best supporting actress (even though her role is too small to truly ignite a delight, but her character's four minute interrogation was filmed in one take which gave it more weight). Even though it was directed by the untypical-opulent director Sidney Lumet, and even though the most unorthodox story was picked from Christie's opus (obvious in the unusual ending that defies her previous crime standards), "Orient" is still a rather standard-typical "whodunit" story that has spark, but needed more individual touches to advance into something more special. The ensemble cast is fantastic - among them even Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall and John Gilegud! - whereas it is interesting how Lumet decided to portrait Poirot not as a charming detective, but as an slightly autistic outsider, yet more could have been done to create a truly unique achievement, which an individual of Lumet's calibre could have done. Still, the setting - a train trapped in snow - is perfect, numerous dialogues have wit (Mrs. Hubbard: "Don't you agree the man must have entered my compartment to gain access to Mr. Ratchett?" - Princess Dragomiroff: "I can think of no other reason, madame...No other reason..."), the cinematography is sharp whereas Poirot's final 30 minute speech is exquisite, as in most of his cases.


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