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Book to Screen: Murder on the Orient Express

By Bianca Smith • November 03, 2017

Thirteen strangers and a detective on a lavish train stranded at midnight in the European snow. It’s an Agatha Christie novel, so of course, by morning a millionaire passenger was dead. Murder on the Orient Express is detective Hercule Poirot’s tenth mystery. He knows the murderer must be on the train, but which one is it? The princess or her maid? The count, perhaps? Or maybe the missionary? We’ll stop the summary there to avoid spoilers.

The newest movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express hits North American cinemas on November 10, but will it do the beloved book justice? Agatha Christie’s husband, Max Mallowan, said that she “had always been allergic” to cinema adaptations of her books. “She didn’t like her characters to be portrayed on book covers either,” says James Prichard, her great-grandson. Let's look at the new movie.

The cast and crew are as cinema-elite as the 1930s train on which the story is set. It’s directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the lead character, Poirot. Johnny Depp plays the murder victim (and no, that’s not a spoiler), and characters played by Dame Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, and Michelle Pfeiffer are suspects, we mean passengers. Reports say the set is amazingly accurate. Part of the train’s interior includes actual items from the Orient Express and all the food used was authentically made to the 1930s recipes. If you haven’t seen it yet, definitely watch the trailer. The movie looks decadently stunning.

“I liked the sense that I could let the audience escape into that world,” says Branagh, “where the details of what the characters are touching, seeing, eating, drinking, wearing are a significant part of the pleasure.”

And the story adaptation? We’ll have to see on November 10.

Is Murder on the Orient Express your first Agatha Christie mystery? She wrote 66 detective novels over 56 years, so it’s hard to know what to choose next. Here are some favorites to get you started.

Read more by Bianca Smith

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