Comparing the acclaimed Agatha Christie novel and the newly released thriller side-by-side

By Ally Melnik, ’18

The Book:

The novel Murder on the Orient Express was originally published in 1934 with millions of copies sold internationally. This novel set the standard for future mystery novels as to how a classic “whodunit” should be written.

The book starts by Christie introducing her famous detective Hercule Poirot. Poirot is traveling from Syria to London to help solve a separate case than the one that is committed on his mode of transportation: the Orient Express. It’s on the train where one of the passengers, Mr. Ratchett, is mysteriously murdered. In addition to the murder, the train has been caught in a snowdrift where the vehicle can’t move until help comes, leaving Poirot under suspicion that one of the passengers is the murderer. Poirot then begins the process of interviewing the 12 passengers and the conductor to try and deduce who killed Ratchett.

Although the book has a slow start in introducing Poirot and the other characters, it’s captivating from the beginning of the train ride to the end. Some information feels as though it’s thrown in from nowhere, but it all comes together in a somewhat abrupt ending leaving the reader only partially satisfied with Poirot’s conclusion; however, it’s still a worthy read full of suspense.

The Movie:

Kenneth Branagh’s version of Murder came out on Nov. 10. Although it stayed mostly true to Christie’s novel, it was definitely dramatized to better fit a typical 21st century audience.

First off, the train wasn’t derailed, it was just caught in a snowdrift. When the train was stuck, the crew didn’t come immediately, as shown in the film—part of the suspense was the fact that Poirot only had a certain amount of time to deduce the murderer before help came. The movie also added Hollywoodesque suspense, with people chasing and shooting one another for answers, all of which didn’t occur in the book.

Second, Branagh unnecessarily changed some of the characters’ names. He combined two characters, Dr. Constantine and Col. Arbuthnot, into one: Dr. Arbuthnot. He also changed the Swedish nursemaid into a Spanish one and the Italian passenger into a Spanish passenger as well, which will irk all book-readers.

While the movie overall wasn’t terrible, it still wasn’t as great as it appeared in the trailers. Branagh definitely centered the movie around his character in his monologues, which made everyone else seem arbitrarily unimportant. This is more of a movie to view on HBO than in theatres; it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t amazing.