“The devil is in the details” comes to mind when considering the film “Murder on the Orient Express” because details are important in a mystery. It was the attention to detail in the film that made it so enjoyable for me.
I felt I had traveled back in time to the Orient during the 1920’s, not long after the end of World War I and during Prohibition. Everything in the environment, from the dialogue, costumes, the props and even the music being played on a record player in one scene, immersed the audience in that world. Those details were key in bringing Agatha Christie’s classic novel to life.
The characters solidified reality in the way they were presented on screen. Hercule Poirot, as portrayed by Kenneth Branagh, was so believable, I forgot the actor is British and not Belgian like his character. Each actor and actress embodied their characters with such ease and grace, it was impossible not to see them as the individuals they were in the film. I didn’t recognize Daisy Ridley, who played Miss Mary Debenham, until I saw her name in the credits.
The film felt old too, as if it had been filmed in the golden age of cinema — although it had the high resolution of modern movies. The effect was a result of the motion picture being shot on 65 millimeter film, a medium seldom, if at all used in the industry today. The lighting appeared soft and warm, and the wide shots of mountains and snow as the train traveled toward its destination were immaculately detailed, giving one the impression of being a bird flying high over the Balkans.
All these elements — cinematography, acting, directing and the sets came together seamlessly to such a degree the story seemed to happen on its own. It was like being a passenger on the train, witnessing the events as they unfolded.
Here was a renowned detective seeking only to rest, to escape from his worldly ordeal of solving numerous crimes no one else seemed able to solve. Poirot was in fact on vacation in Stanboul when it was cut short upon receipt of a telegram requesting his presence in London. Accepting his fate, he boards the Orient Express thinking it will be a relaxing three-day trip, only to be thrown back into the role, from which he wished to abscond when a passenger is murdered.
As Poirot races to uncover the identity of the killer, the details become inescapably detrimental to the narrative. We are irrevocably taken on a journey of self-discovery and the human condition as Poirot navigates through a maze of twists and turns that have him questioning his own insight. By the end of the film he is a changed man, no longer focusing on the facts alone, but on the matters of the heart to which he said, “The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”
Everything in the film was so detailed, there was not a moment where I couldn’t suspend my disbelief. For me, the murder had happened and the mystery was real. I am inspired by this film to read the book “Murder on the Orient Express,” which was loved by the generations before me. Agatha Christie would be proud to see her vision and words become reality.