While nowhere near one of the first Agatha Christie movie adaptations out there, Murder On The Orient Express was the first Hercule Poirot movie to really take off, even earning Ingrid Bergman a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as one of the many passengers/murder suspects aboard the iconic train.
The cast is star-studded to say the least with the likes of Sean Connery, Lauren Bacall, Anthony Perkins, John Gielgud, Richard Widmark, Michael York and Vanessa Redgrave all there and acting their butts off trying to outdo each other. Directed by Sidney Lumet, the film sees legendary Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) board the Orient Express last minute only to find that it is packed with dodgy characters before one of them is eventually murdered. The train gets stuck halfway through its trip in the snow so it'll be up to Poirot to solve the case before any more shady goings on occur. Now you'd think that being stuck in a train for an entire movie would be a dull affair and yet Lumet's slick, inventive direction as well as the many captivating performances delivered here should keep you completely hypnotized throughout.
The writing is, of course, outstanding and even though that particular case is pretty darn intricate, by the end it'll all come together quite nicely and you'll forget you were ever confused by the plot. There are a lot of characters involved here, each with their own thoroughly defined backstory, and a lot of weird clues for our favourite sleuth to decipher but if you enjoy this kind of Agatha Christie plot, you should have a lot of fun with it. The performances here are all note-worthy and although some cast members stick to what they know best, Perkins as a troubled, creepy mummy's boy, Bacall as a fast-talking tough cookie, the likes of Ingrid Bergman and Albert Finney both deliver something uncharacteristic and at times impressive. Bergman may only really have that one interrogation scene to impress but she pulls it off brilliantly, trying out a far thicker Swedish accent than usual and looking constantly terrified. As for Finney, he may feel like an odd choice initially (Peter Ustinov just makes sense) and his Belgian accent isn't too consistent but he really gives it his all and it shows, capturing the character's essence despite looking a bit like a hunchbacked French Hitler.
Arguably one of if not the best Agatha Christie movie adaptations out there, Murder On The Orient Express is well worth seeing and certainly deserves the praise it received back in the day. This is a dark, at times genuinely unnerving murder mystery with one hell of a cast and meticulously crafted direction from start to finish.
A must, especially for Christie aficionados.