As a teen reader, I discovered the mysteries of Agatha Christie. And although I eventually read oodles of Christie’s books, I don’t think I ever figured out whodunit. (By the way, Christie’s And Then There Were None is one of only a handful of books I’ve read in one day. Indeed, I might have read it in one sitting. Yes, it’s that good.)
Anyway, even though I tried – and failed – to solve the mysteries, for me it was more about the characters and the settings. I enjoyed being transported from the holler to grand manors or English villages.
I thought of those books again recently after watching the most recent adaptations of two of Christie’s mysteries, Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile.
Parts of both movies are boring, but overall they entertained me. I preferred Orient Express because I’ve always favored that story – it’s one of Christie’s most memorable – and because of the stunning shots of snowy mountains and landscapes.
Nile, as the title suggests, is set in Egypt and also features stunning shots. But most of them look like they were created by CGI (computer generated imagery) … because they were. Here’s the thing: CGI is kinda like wigs, hair extensions, and cosmetic surgery. If I notice them, then they must be really obvious.
My only other major complaint of both movies is with the character Hercule Poirot, played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the movies. In the books and earlier adaptations, the Belgian detective – the world’s greatest detective (he proclaims this statement frequently) – is conceited, egotistical, and mannered. In fact, David Suchet played him to perfection in the aptly-titled BBC series, Poirot.
Branagh’s Poirot, whilst conceited, egotistical, and mannered, is also so morose and devoid of any spark that, if not for his signature moustache and accent (and for the fact that everyone calls him Det. Poirot), I wouldn’t know who he was supposed to be.
These movies center around murder and death. Not exactly fun-filled times. And in the case of Orient Express, it’s a sad, sad story. I legit became emotional at one point whilst watching that flick. But most of Christie’s mysteries are so over-the-top and filled with such hyperbolic characters that I can’t take them seriously. This includes Nile. More than once whilst watching that flick, I legit rolled my eyes at the characters’ hysterics.
So I’d really like Poirot to be outrageous as well and not constantly moping around with a bad case of the sads. (I’ve read that another adaptation of another book with another actor features an even sadder Poirot. I implore filmmakers and actors to please stop this nonsense.)
Nevertheless, I recommend the Branagh movies. And, of course, Christie’s books. I’m happy to report that after I watched the films, I advised a younger person in my life to read Orient Express. She took my advice.
As should you.
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.