Even the world’s greatest detective is entitled to inevitably have a bad day every once in a while. In the case of Agatha Christie: Poirot - Murder On The Orient Express, however, not only does super sleuth Hercule Poirot undergo the most baffling case of his career, but so does his audience. Ever since actor David Suchet first clenched his butt-cheeks to bring the character of Poirot to life for the first British-made television adaptation of Agatha Christie: Poirot in 1989, fans around the world started asking when they would finally see Suchet perform in what they had hoped to be the definitive adaptation of Christie’s most-celebrated murder mystery.
In 2010, they got their answer. Partially, that is. It did indeed star David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. But the whole “definitive” thing is out of the question. As is typical of some novel-to-film adaptations, the makers of Agatha Christie: Poirot - Murder On The Orient Express took a few liberties to keep things fresh. That, or they were just plain daft. For starters, they made Poirot a devout Catholic: something that had never been part of Christie’s original character; nor was it even mentioned in her work. Secondly, they really totally epically failed to create any sense of atmosphere.
The story, wherein Poirot attempts to investigate the bizarre stabbing death of a fellow passenger onboard the Orient Express, has become something of a legend. With the train indeterminately stalled on behalf of a major snowfall somewhere in the Serbian mountains, Poirot is out of his element. His usual assistants are nowhere to be found, and his entire faith in the human race has been compromised over the unsatisfactory way his last case ended. And then, the man in his neighboring cabin is brutally stabbed during the night, leaving Poirot with a number of enigmatic clues and pieces to several different puzzles.
It’s a wonderful story all-around, but this TV adaptation really doesn’t cut it. Even Suchet himself — who has become the very epitome of Poirot in the eyes of many viewers and fills the Belgian detective’s small fictional shoes perfectly — seems to be off his game. The supporting actors (including American actress Barbara Hershey) also deliver some equally believable but none-too-impressive performances, while director Philip Martin’s only success here is in capturing some of the story’s atmosphere from Stewart Harcourt’s bastardized script.