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British mystery author Agatha Christie has a more genteel reputation than many of the whodunnit writers who have come after her. But murder is never a nice business and the homicide at the heart of her classic 1934 tale Murder on the Orient Express is a particularly savage affair. Director Kenneth Branagh says that element of Christie’s story is something which very much informed his big screen adaptation of the novel, which boasts a screenplay from Michael Green (American Gods, Logan, Blade Runner 2049) and is released Nov. 10.
“I think what I found in the book again, and in the screenplay, was that it unleashed something very primal, very kind of grisly,” says Branagh, who plays Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot in the film. “I realized that we could find a way to have the fun of Agatha Christie, but have the absolutely deadly intention behind it, and the danger. I think we’re making a scarier film than people might imagine. We’re not trying to turn it into something it isn’t, but I think we’re away from the drawing room mystery, and we’re into something [else]. Because the book is also a dark psychological revenge drama.”
Screenwriter Green hopes this new Murder on the Orient Express — which also stars Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, and Michelle Pfeiffer, among others — will both delight and surprise those familiar with the novel.
“It is an adaptation that’s meant to please people who know the book and want to see how we will handle certain things,” he says. “There are changes, there are differences, there are times they may wonder if we’ve slaughtered, sacrificed, and barbecued sacred cows. I’ll just ask them to reserve judgment until the end of the film.”