Sunday, February 13

Death on the Nile Review

Death on the Nile

Dir: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening, Rose Leslie, Letitia Wright, Sophie Okonedo, Ali Fazal, Emma Mackey, Dawn French, Tom Bateman, Jennifer Saunders, and Russell Brand

2h 7m


Cinema has produced no shortage of brilliant detectives solving all manner of devious deeds, but one of the greatest delivered to novels, television, and film is Hercule Poirot. The Belgian investigator with a mustache that could be a character all by itself was created by Agatha Christie and has appeared in numerous novels, short stories, and various movies/television shows played by prestigious actors. Austin Trevor in 1931s “Alibi” and Tony Randall in 1965s “The Alphabet Murders” played the role of the famous sleuth. Albert Finney received an Oscar nomination playing Poirot in 1974s “Murder on the Orient Express.” A few years later, Peter Ustinov donned the mustache in six different films, including “Death on the Nile” in 1978 and “Evil Under the Sun” in 1982. But the longest run playing the famed detective belongs to David Suchet, who portrayed Hercule from 1989-2014 in the British series “Agatha Christie’s Poirot.” 


Returning director/actor Kenneth Branagh remakes another Agatha Christie classic, “Death on the Nile,” and continues his charming, witty performance as the observant investigator Hercule Poirot. Steeped in a controversy surrounding sexual assault allegations for star Armie Hammer and release delays due to covid-19, “Death on the Nile” floats into theaters this week. The film, which boasts a talented cast and revamps the “whodunit” quality of the original movie with better thrills and suspense, struggles to maintain its messy momentum once it sets sail—leaving the film continuously on the verge of sinking before it reaches the harbors. 

Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is on holiday abroad in Egypt. While gazing at a pyramid and enjoying a snack, Poirot is reacquainted with old friend Bouc (Tom Bateman) and invited to attend a Nile cruise to celebrate the marriage of Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) to heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot). Poirot, initially reluctant but eventually intrigued by the devious, many times ruthless group of celebrators, boards the luxury boat. Linnet is relieved to be on the Nile and away from her former best friend Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey), who has stalked the couple every step of their celebration. Linnet is terrified for her safety. She confides in Poirot, detailing the fears she experiences because of her wealth. After a night of revelry, which ends in a vengeful argument, events turn deadly as a
murder happens onboard the ship. 


Kenneth Branagh’s “Death on the Nile” does a fine job of maintaining, and in some places heightening, the suspense found in Christie’s novel. Writer Michael Green, who also wrote 2017s “Murder on the Orient Express,” labors over the tangled relationships of all the guests in the beginning half of the film, introducing red herrings and ulterior motives that emerge but are quickly dismissed once the mystery begins. And it takes some time to get to the actual mystery of the story. Green’s overabundant development never seems to add much to the plotting procedural that takes place once the crime occurs. However, once Poirot begins accusing everyone of murder, and the twists and turns start to find purpose, the film finds its footing.


Kenneth Branagh’s performance is, oddly, a highlight of the film. While the character often sways between calculated and comical, Branagh enjoys the time under the mustache. That makes all the difference when the film tries to be a serious whodunit. However, Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer are not having the same fun as their romance comes to life with little chemistry between the two actors. Emma Mackey, playing the jaded and vengeful Jacqueline, provides enough scorned craziness to make any scene with her enjoyable. For the most part, the talented cast is provided few scenes to develop their characters, but some are offered the occasional monologue to chew the scenery in amusing ways. 


Kenneth Branagh’s “Death on the Nile” updates Agatha Christie’s novel to make the mystery more suspenseful. Branagh’s portrayal of famed investigator Poirot is amusing in the best way possible. Still, even with an all-star cast and updated elements to enliven the mystery, “Death on the Nile” struggles to find its rhythm of storytelling. 


Monte’s Rating

3.25 out of 5.00

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