Poirot searches for a killer on a snowbound train
While traveling from Istanbul to London aboard the luxurious Orient Express, Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) encounters a ruthless businessman who offers him a large sum to expose the person threatening his life. Poirot declines, not caring for the man or his money. But when he is stabbed to death, the detective is determined to find the killer. With the help of an amateur sleuth (Samuel West, Van Helsing), Poirot begins to piece together the chain of events leading up to the murder.
GUEST STARS INCLUDE Eileen Atkins (Cold Mountain), Toby Jones (Frost/Nixon, Infamous), Hugh Bonneville (Iris), and Barbara Hershey (Hannah and Her Sisters)
A number of fine actors--Albert Finney, Peter Ustinov, Ian Holm, Alfred Molina, Tony Randall--have portrayed detective Hercule Poirot, mystery author Agatha Christie's most popular creation. There have also been several filmed versions of Murder on the Orient Express
, perhaps Christie's best-known tale, and although this 2010 made-for-TV adaptation, with David Suchet in the lead role, isn't the best of the lot (that distinction goes by general consensus to the 1974 feature film, with Finney), it's likely the most controversial. That's primarily because director Philip Martin and screenwriter Stewart Harcourt have been less than completely faithful to the source material. Scenes that Christie never wrote have been added (starting right off the top with a nasty bit of business in which Poirot observes a Turkish woman being stoned for allegedly committing adultery); other bits have been somewhat rearranged, while a few characters' motivations and dispositions have changed as well, and while these are alterations that casual viewers won't notice, they are the source of dismay among those who want to see what they've read translated literally to the screen. Meanwhile, in keeping with the dark, rather violent tone, Suchet plays Poirot (a role he has portrayed more than 60 times over the last 20-plus years) as a cold, condescending, self-righteous sleuth who refers to himself in the third person and spends much of his time lurking around corners, spying and eavesdropping as he collects the information that results in a typically brilliant solution to the case--which, as Christie veterans will know, concerns the murder of one Samuel Ratchett, a heinous criminal masquerading as an obnoxious American businessman as he travels with a host of rich and royal swells on the elegant train en route from Istanbul to points west. Overall, the movie's production values are decent (especially for television), the Blu-ray transfer is excellent, and the bonus features are fine, particularly a travelogue about the real Orient Express (hosted by Suchet). But that may not be enough for Christie purists. --Sam Graham