OBJECTIVE: Watch a popular or critically acclaimed film we’ve never seen to the halfway point. Pause it. Work together to predict the ending.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974)
THE LAST THING WE SAW: Full disclosure, we accidentally paused a whopping five seconds past the halfway point at 01:04:05, right as Poirot begins his interview with the Bible lady.
And now… discuss!
Phil: So I think the murderer is—
Ben: Can I stop you there?
Ben: I’m really happy for you, and I’mma let you finish, but… who are these people?
Phil: I know, right? The pacing on this movie has been ludicrously slow— we’ve watched half the movie and Poirot has only finished his third interview of thirteen.
Ben: Yeah, we have some vague snapshots of these “people.”
Phil: Vague is an overstatement. The murder didn’t occur until 35 minutes into the film, and up until that point, all we saw was people getting on a train!
Ben: Exactly. We didn’t need a half hour of privileged people kicking oranges.
Phil: The conversations have literally been, “I’ll have one stewed potato,” “What a weird little Belgian gent,” and “Call me Dick!” (Shouldn’t be difficult, movie.)
Ben: I’ve resorted to looking at the front cover art of the DVD and trying to guess people’s names and anything they might have done thus far, let alone whodunnit. Speaking of which, whodunnit?
Phil: Yeah, “which of these anonymous faces dunnit?” is the only question we can ask.
Ben: Straight up, I haven’t even heard two of these people talk. Maybe three.
Phil: Unless all of this tasting of mussels and telling street vendors, “No thank you,” are really clever and subtle clues, we have very little to go on at this point.
Ben: To quote Poirot, “Now you have accidentally said something valuable!”
Phil: Okay, so, with a mere three interviews having been conducted, my guess is that the porter Pierre did it.
Ben: I dunno, Phil. I demand a flimsy justification.
Phil: Pierre’s experiences are far too much like the victim of the original Armstrong kidnapping and murder. a) It happened exactly five years ago, and b) Pierre’s wife (like the wife of the Armstrong case) died of grief. Perhaps Pierre is really Armstrong, faked his death, and, like Cassetti, is in disguise/has a new identity as a railroad porter, and is now seeking revenge.
Ben: That seems as honorable and reasonable as any guess. His memory of the Armstrong case was shaky. My best guess under these ridiculous circumstances is that it was the secretary, who talks suspiciously like Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park. “Murder, uh, finds a way.” Also, I don’t trust his hair. It’s not a good reason, but what else do I have to go on?
Phil: Yeah, having 35 minutes of a Seinfeld-inspired Exposition About Nothing has left us nada. And as poetic as it would be to let Tony Perkins (SPOILER) reprise his famous role, I feel that he’s too obvious. He was practically orgasmic at the thought of being the one to wield the murder weapon.
Ben: My best guess is not a good guess, this I readily admit. The only other candidate is Hubbard, the 1930s equivalent of the woman who always want to speak to the manager. We’ve had no time! This movie is like a bad heart: it needs a pacemaker.
Phil: Could it be that these three seem to us more likely than the others because they are the only ones we’ve seen interviewed thus far?! Still, out of these three, Pierre still seems most likely to me. Another nail in his coffin is that when Ratchet/Cassetti cried out, his sentence was, “I was having a cauchemar.” Now why would an American with an Italian background use a French phrase to explain himself? Personally, I think this was the murderer yelling, trying to make it sound like Cassetti was still alive.
Ben: Ah! And Pierre is debilitatingly French, so it makes sense! But would Cassetti not recognize the Lindber-I mean, the Armstrong father in the crime he masterminded? I don’t know. This is my first Agatha Christie movie. Is it always like a game of Clue with well-to-do sociopaths?
Phil: I grew up on the David Suchet ones on PBS (although I never saw their rendition of this one), and the answer is, as the Belgians say, “oui.” However, that is a really good point, that Cassetti probably would have recognized “Pierre” Armstrong. Perhaps Poirot should have interviewed more people before throwing it back to us.
Ben: One wonders how motivated Poirot is to find Cassetti’s killer, given his extreme disdain for Cassetti. Does he only want to uphold justice and prevent another murder?
Phil: Yeah, I am surprised that Poirot is feeling so little remorse, considering that, not twelve hours after being asked personally to help save a man’s life, he views the very same man slain right next door.
If it is in fact not Pierre (I may easily be the Captain Hastings right now, falling for the obvious), my only other thought was that there are two people that are surprisingly not suspects; on the contrary, they are in Poirot’s inner circle of judgement: the Einsteiny doctor guy and the train mogul (Mitchell!) could also be the murderer. However, I doubt the train fellow is the guy, though—he knows that Poirot is brilliant and hasn’t lost a case, so unless his balls are as big as the 35-minute vacant lot that was the opening to the movie, I doubt he’d dance with destiny by bringing Poirot on board.
Ben: We’ve watched the engine; let’s watch the caboose!
AND NOW, WE FINISH THE MOVIE:
Philip Hobby grew up in Falmouth, Maine. His parents, having met in a film course, exposed him to hundreds of the world’s cinematic offerings. However, there are still some glaring lacunae in his film knowledge, which he thankfully exploits in this Cinema 52 feature. Contact Ben Katz at (207) 797-3400 if you’re looking for work in the Portland, ME area.