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Agatha Christie Adaptations: Murder on the Orient Express vs. Crooked House

Sila is a psychologist who is interested in watching movies and TV series, and writing about them.

"Murder on the Orient Express" and "Crooked House", both premiered in 2017, are mystery/crime films based on Agatha Christie's same-titled novels. What makes them similar to each other and different from each other?

Murder on the Orient Express

Prestigious detective Hercule Poirot travels on the Orient Express. During his travel, something happens which turns the express into a crime scene. Poirot tries his best to solve the crime which would turn out to be the most challenging case for him.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Runtime: 114 minutes

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Writers: Michael Green (Screenplay), Agatha Christie (Novel)

Cinematography: Haris Zambarloukos

Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom JR, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley

Country: Malta, USA

Languages: English, French, German, Arabic

Kenneth Branagh as Detective Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Kenneth Branagh as Detective Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

The narrative has a flowing style with surprising elements supported with haunting scores. The dialogues are dramatic yet entertaining. It's fast paced which makes it amusing, despite its quirkiness.

The excellent acting and diverse casting makes the film really enjoyable. All of the actors are in comformity with each other. They manage to stay true to their characters the entire time. In my opinion, Kenneth Branagh and Michelle Pfeiffer have the most outstanding performances.

The director Kenneth Branagh, who is also the leading actor of the movie, didn't shoot the film in digital. Conversely, he shot it with the last 4 Panavision cameras in 65 mm format. I guess, he aimed to create a claustrophobic look which he definitely succeeded. Also, he focused on close-ups to incur a dramatic effect. He did lay weight on symmetrical framing which heightens suspense.

Personally, I find it really challenging to direct a movie and to star as the leading role in the same movie at the same time. The same thing applies to Kenneth Branagh who directs and stars in Murder on the Orient Express. Undoubtedly, he does a phenomenal job at portraying a prestigious detective. His body language is so on point. He speaks with his eyes. Unfortunately, I won't be able to say the same thing for him when it comes to directing.

The film is visually and aesthetically pleasing. Its cinematography is absolutely stunning. Kudos to the cinematographer! Everything is so well designed. It gives all period vibes with its remarkable costume and production design. There was a moving train built by the production design team which caused motion sickness for the cast members. So, they really topped up their game when it comes to production design. The visual effects, achieved with C.G.I., are good. The editing is more than just good, in spite of considering that the movie was shot in analog, not digital. In other words, it blends digital and analog resplendently which makes you question what is real and what is unreal. However, it gets a tad annoying when it begins to feel surreal.


Crooked House

Private detective Charles Hawyward is hired by his ex girlfriend to find the murderer of his ex's grandfather. He goes to the family mansion and meets family members in order to find clues. The more clues he finds, the more twisted the case gets.

Crooked House (2017)

Crooked House (2017)

Runtime: 115 minutes

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Writers: Julian Fellowes (Screenplay), Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Screenplay), Tim Rose Price (Screenplay), Agatha Christie (Novel)

Cinematography: Sebastian Winterø

Stars: Max Irons, Stefanie Martini, Glenn Close, Terence Stamp, Gillian Anderson, Christina Hendricks, Julian Sands, Amanda Abbington, Christian McKay, Honor Kneafsey

Country: UK

Languages: English

Max Irons and Terrence Stamp as Detective Charles Hayward and Chief Inspector Taverner in Crooked House (2017)

Max Irons and Terrence Stamp as Detective Charles Hayward and Chief Inspector Taverner in Crooked House (2017)

Terrence Stamp and Max Irons as Chief Inspector Taverner and Detective Charles Hayward in Crooked House (2017)

Terrence Stamp and Max Irons as Chief Inspector Taverner and Detective Charles Hayward in Crooked House (2017)

The storytelling is compelling, even though it sometimes is exhausting and sort of dull. It just feels longer than its actual runtime. At least, it did for me. In other words, I find it slow-paced. It's one of those mind-bending mysteries which aim to blow one's mind while watching it. One minute, you might think you have everything figured out. Another minute, you might think you don't. It goes on like this the entire movie.

The leading actor Max Irons is really good and has a great on-screen chemistry with Stefanie Martini who is as good as him. However, both of them are overshadowed by Gillian Anderson and Christina Hendricks. It's a pity that Gillian Anderson didn't have much of a screentime. Although the acting was good, the cast members weren't so in sync with each other. I think, some of them failed to stay in character entirely like they were often distracted which was distracting to watch. In a way, it lacks of feelings while generating a mysterious athmosphere. Perhaps, the characters were supposed to seem both numb and intense to create bemusement for the audience. However, something felt off.

The director Gilles Paquet-Brenner does a good job at directing. He knows how to work the angles, in spite of the fact that it seems sloppy sometimes. Sloppiness probably must've resulted from inharmoniousness between directing and editing.

The cinematography is not so enchanting. On the contrary, it's only haunting. It'd be unfair, if it sounded like the cinematography was not good enough. It is dark which reflects ambiguity. Therefore, it serves its purpose. Hereby, it was really good but it wasn't so impressive in my opinion.

The production design is exquisite. It gives creepy vibes all the time. The scores corrorabate the creepiness as well. Especially, when there's silence among the characters. The costume design is well done. I adore most of the outfits.

 Murder on the Orient ExpressCrooked House

Acting

8/10

7/10

Storytelling

7/10

6.5/10

Directing

5.5/10

6/10

Cinematography

9/10

7/10

Editing

8/10

6/10

Visual Effects

8.5/10

6.5/10

Production Design

10/10

10/10

Costume Design

10/10

9/10

Hair & Make Up Styling

8/10

8/10

Score

9.5/10

7.5/10

Overall

6.5/10

6/10

Total

8.1/10

7.2/10

Similarities

Apart from being Agatha Christie adaptations and belonging to the same genre, they are similar because of the following reasons:

  1. They are underrated,
  2. Their runtimes are almost the same,
  3. They have 'whodunit reveal',
  4. The cast have theatrical acting performances,
  5. They have an ensemble cast,
  6. They give off period vibes.

Differences

They differ from each other because of the reasons listed below;

  1. Pacing,
  2. Printed film format,
  3. Origin and country of production: American VS. British,
  4. The number of adaptations: "Murder on the Orient Express" is the remake, whereas "Crooked House" is the first adaptation.

As a fan of mystery/crime movies, I was impressed by both of them for different reasons. I seem to have a softer spot for "Murder on the Orient Express" though. Sorry, "Crooked House".

I watched "Murder on the Orient Express" first. Then, the next day, I watched "Crooked House". Thus, I was able to compare them to each other. I was actually surprised when I realized how underrated those two are. They might not be the greatest mystery/crime movies out there. But it doesn't mean they aren't good enough. Because they're really good.

If you're also into mystery/crime movies, you should keep an open mind and give a chance to those two. You'll probably enjoy watching them better if you don't mind directing skills of Kenneth Branagh and Gilles-Paquet Brenner. Just focus on acting, production design and costume design in order to entertain yourself, since they're excellent. Natheless, they'll never make it to my favorite movies. They'll just be one of those movies that I enjoyed.

Murder on the Orient Express VS. Crooked House

© 2018 Sila Ozgoren