Film Review: Agatha Christie Redux

My very first mystery/crime heroine was Nancy Drew, who was described as a sleuth rather than as a detective and did her crime-solving by happenstance, as a sharp young lady alert to trouble rather than as a recognized practitioner in the justice-seeking world. Soon enough I found Agatha Christie, with her prominent detective Hercule Poirot, and her often underestimated resident of St. Mary Mead, the razor-sharp Miss Marple.

Murder on the Orient Express, a Christie masterpiece, was first published in 1934, starring the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The classic was made into a film for the first time in 1974, under the direction of Sidney Lumet. The film had an all-star cast then, and does as well in the current remake: Kenneth Branagh plays Poirot, and he has a cast that includes Dame Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, and Willem Dafoe. David Suchet played Hercule Poirot in the 2010 TV version.

Suffice to say that Murder on the Orient Express has had a long and luminous run.

This film remake is very period, very Agatha, and unexpectedly moving. Sometimes justice, even for the exacting Monsieur Poirot, cannot be made even, symmetrical, or straight.

I’m dazzled once again by Judi Dench, who is 82, apparently has failing eyesight and bad knees, but hasn’t missed a chance to work whenever a good opportunity comes up. This year she appears in both Victoria and Abdul and Murder on the Orient Express, the former film likely Oscar-bound. In the Agatha Christie drama, Dench is perfect as the Russian Princess Dragomirov.

Well worth the price of a ticket, even if you’ve read the print version and have the storyline down to a T. Agatha Christie would have liked her Murder on the Orient Express redux, and you will too.

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