This is part of my Sidney Lumet Syllabus

Murder on the Orient Express (1)

After watching this film on the weekend past I start to question how to truly tackle it. This is a story that has been reshaped and used in so many ways with so many different characters and actors that I can’t imagine saying the title and someone not already being familiar with the entire story. I almost can’t imagine talking about the film without just playing up the entire plot (spoilers included)… however, I shall remain vigilant and move forward none the less.

When Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) boards the Orient Express for London he does so not knowing that a murder is about to take place. With peculiarities abound he is tasked to solve the murder of Mr. Ratchett (Richard Widmark) using his wits and not much else as a passengers do their best to outsmart the man who uses his little grey cells to their finest.

There are those films which feel like overcasted television episodes that manage to last two hours, and then there are television shows that feel like overproduced films. Murder on the Orient Express feels more like the former than the later. With Albert FinneySean ConneryIngrid BergmanVanessa Redgrave and Lauren Bacall all on this train at once it feels like all these people may of all just been on holiday at the same time and Lumet magically got them to all say yes to a month on a train set supposedly in the middle of Yugoslavia — yes, yes… I could probably guess that they didn’t film this in Yugoslavia. This however, doesn’t really do much for the film though. While I adored being able to add another film to baffling moments of Sean Connery‘s film career, there wasn’t much in the way of great moments that allow themselves to be self satirizing or unintentionally silly.

The film is done very much in a manner that is reminiscent of the PBS Poirot series and in that manner I almost find it sad that I can’t quite distinguish the two. Even if the series was done after this film. Maybe it’s that Lumet did it so well that the series decided that would be the tone of the Poirot to come and now looking back they’re just two indistinguishable entities.

Regardless the film remains a piece of entertaining Sunday early evening murder mystery for those looking for a family piece with characters that you’d expect to act out at home ironically while playing Clue with your parents who still think you’re eight.

What do you think of Murder on the Orient Express?


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Author: Andrew Robinson

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  • Dan

    I really enjoy the film every time I see it. I suppose that's the biggest compliment you can make to it given that the real forward momentum of the film relies on "who dunnit". That's testament to Lumet's skill as a director (the way he paces Poirot's investigation, the little red herrings and clues, the healthy development of each principle character) and, perhaps even more importantly, Albert Finney's strong performance. It isn't Lumet's best film by any stretch of the imagination…indeed, he's so good at what he does, MotOE is simply evidence of him going through the motions. But it is still a thoroughly entertaining murder-mystery, one which others have been influenced by.