Murder on the Orient Express: Stunning Outside, Blah Inside
Our phones are ringing off the hook.
Much of it’s due to the film remake of Agatha Christie’s 1934 who-done-it, “Murder on the Orient Express.” It opened in U.S. theaters Nov. 10.
The movie has been thoroughly reviewed by the general press, with major critics less than thrilled. If I were still a newspaper critic (which I was in a past life), I’d begin by saying it’s too long by at least 15-20 minutes.
The film is brilliant when the train exterior is center stage in the “mountains of Eastern Europe” (It was, in fact, shot entirely at a film studio outside London).
Pulled by a magnificent steam engine, the train is bathed in blue and white moonlight, with the camera soaring down one mountain peak and up another, as if carried by an eagle (or a drone).
The film’s Orient Express glides around mountains, beset by flashing lightning bursts and menacing clouds, clinging precariously to cliffs, seemingly thousands of feet above steep gorges.
These panoramic scenes show luxury trains at their best—as almost otherworldly experiences, whose train-window views are incomparable and life-changing.
But inside—and unlike the real luxury trains we represent —the movie Orient Express falls flat. There’s hardly any fancy furniture or gleaming brass; no discernible marquetry. The cutlery looks utilitarian; the china and crystal are uninspiring.
While there are some Art Deco accents—vaguely “Lalique-ish” sconces resembling ice sculptures adorn the movie-train walls; along with convincingly retro luggage racks—the overall color scheme ranges from dull tweed to brown.
Conversely, you can’t beat the star-studded cast. Convincingly dressed in period costume, with Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You” in the background, they are brash, mysterious, gaudy, sexy — and thoroughly awash in “guilty” looks.
But there isn’t much for them to do when Poirot’s not grilling them, aside from glancing suspiciously at one another. Mostly, they just look bored. (C’mon, folks, have some fun. You’re on a luxury train!)
And as far as accuracy goes, I’m dubious. In my 35 years of working in the luxury train world, I’ve never heard of a rear, open platform* on the original Orient Express in any of its iterations, as it’s shown in the film. (Please email me if you know otherwise.).
So go see “Murder on the Orient Express.” The “outdoor” train scenes alone are worth the price of admission.
But don’t commit the crime of not trying out a luxury train for yourself.
*We at IRT love open, outdoor platforms. Among our “World’s Top 25 Trains®,” open-air platforms are available on Rovos Rail’s “The Pride of Africa,” the “Belmond Royal Scotsman,” the Bangkok-Singapore “Eastern & Oriental Express” (also a Belmond train), the “Rocky Mountaineer” in Canada, Peru’s “Belmond Andean Explorer” and “Belmond Hiram Bingham” and Ecuador’s “Tren Crucero.”