The reign of David Suchet as the quirky yet brilliant detective Hercule Poirot continues in this latest series of movie adaptations of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novels. He has played this role for over twenty years, and few would argue that there is a modern actor who knows Poirot better than Suchet. However, as any fan will tell you, the screenwriters, directors, and producers of the television series have a significant influence on how the character is portrayed, and there is only so much one actor can do.
The Movie Collection, Set 5 contains three new productions, as well as a few special features, which are a rare treat, as most of the Agatha Christie TV/movie sets contain very little beyond the original content.
Murder on the Orient Express (screenplay by Stewart Harcourt, directed by Philip Martin)
The story begins with several poignant scenes showing an older, more solitary, and more rigid Poirot. He is famous and is respected by many people, but he travels alone and does not appear to even desire the company of others as he contemplates his Catholic faith and drive to seek out the truth.
On his way home to London from Istanbul on the Orient Express, he encounters an unpleasant American businessman who tries to hire him to protect him against some unknown danger, but Poirot refuses. Later, the man is found stabbed to death in his compartment, and everyone is a suspect. The train is stuck for several days in the snowy Serbian mountains, leaving Poirot just enough time to suss out the truth. As this is one of Christie’s most famous stories, I won’t go into too much detail about who or how.
What is different about this adaptation of the story is that the emphasis is not placed on the mystery of who and how, but rather on the morality of the story, with Poirot’s Catholicism playing a much larger role in his ethics and logic than I ever recall reading in the many stories Christie wrote. He seems strangely focused on legal systems as a form of justice, rather than looking at the whole picture to see where justice is occasionally being served outside of the law.
While I appreciate what the creators of this adaptation were attempting to do, the execution was a bit lacking. The pacing is very slow and plodding, with too many dramatic close-ups of furrowed brows.
Third Girl (screenplay by Peter Flannery, directed by Dan Reed)
This is an adaptation of one of Christie’s more convoluted and red herring filled novels, and features both Poirot and Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker), a mystery author Christie wrote as a parody of herself. As I sat down to watch this, my only hope was that it would be easier to follow than the original text. Thankfully, it is.