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[Article] – 4 Things Wrong With Kenneth Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express”

 

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Posted December 3, 2017 by

 
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There is something quintessentially odd about Agatha Christie’s Poirot. From his obsessive pursuit of order and symmetry, numerous eccentricities and merciless attitude towards British food to his posture, spotlessly polished black shoes and of course his moustache… Poirot is and remains an iconic and much loved fictional oddity, forever saluting the extraordinary literary genius of his creator.

Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of one of the detective’s most notoriously recognisable cases, the murder on the Orient Express, sets out to introduce a modern twist on the classic. Branagh, who is bringing the Belgian detective to life himself, has definitely claimed his valiant share of Poirot’s franchise.

With a substantial amount of Hollywood’s pick on board, the film, much like Poirot in any case, achieved predicable success. There can, however, be a few issues. Not when it comes to quality, but to authenticity and preserving Christie’s overall sense of the narrative.


The Moustache

Branagh has successfully ensured that the visual emphasis will fall on the most identifiable aspect of Poirot’s appearance: the moustache. It is his trademark and his point of pride. But it hardly needs to occupy that much facial space. Apart from being freakishly wide, there are almost unnoticeable whiskers. David Suchet’s moustache during his 24-year long portrayal of Poirot offers an obvious point of comparison: subtle, classy and trimmed to symmetrical perfection.

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The Action

Christie’s original description of the detective includes a well-rounded figure with an equally well-formed belly with close to none athletic inclination. How do you imagine that climbing up and down trains or chasing runaways into the snow? Yes, it presents a refreshing take on the traditional mouse-like walk and dirt-intolerance. But Hercule Poirot beating his attacker with a walking cane is way outside the box.

Branagh has brought a sense of athleticism and youthfulness to Poirot’s character. Even though it may finally help him get in shape, it is most definitely not how Christie had perceived him.

Poirot’s Character

A chubby man with an egg-shaped head in a perfectly ironed suit and polished shoes. Kenneth Branagh does not, perhaps rather fortunately for his physique, match the description. But that image and its entertaining oddity are what drives Christie’s character into the open again and again. Poirot is a visual association. Rejuvenating the personality keeps it alive, but transforming the most poignant aspects of its appearance is a bit too hard on the little grey cells.

Solving The Case

One of the greatest pleasures of a Poirot’s novel is cracking the case and exposing the killer with everyone present. There is tension and a sense of hovering expectation as the suspects gather to be told the truth. Branagh plays on these quite well, adding the expected elements of drama and violence. What is missing is the narrative itself. One that, in ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ is explicitly impactful.

It is indeed perhaps too judgemental to expect a slavish dedication to the originality of Christie’s iconic character. That is not how good stories remain relevant. But in the case of preserving what made them good in the first place, some things are better left as they are.

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Written by:

Asya Gadzheva
@lifetimewish
Digital Portfolio
Freelance Contributor

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