While on vacation on the Nile, Hercule Poirot must investigate the murder of a young heiress.
Kenneth Branagh’s latest foray into the Agatha Christie collection has been a little more troubled than ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, beset by production problems some Covid-related and some not. It acts as a sequel of sorts to that film, following mercurial Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh, again with that magnificent moustache) as he attempts to crack his latest case aboard a cruise boat in Egypt. ‘Death on the Nile’ was the obvious next step after ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, thanks to its exotic locations (which look patently greenscreened here) and its status as one of Christie’s most popular murder mysteries, and indeed it had already been filmed in the 1970s with Peter Ustinov as the famous detective.
The production problems surround allegations against several cast members (unrelated, and not on this production I may add), as well as Covid forced cinema closures leading to extensive delays for a film that was originally intended to be released in December 2019, but for its part, you can see none of that on the screen. ‘Death on the Nile’ is a lavish retelling of the Christie story, with an ensemble cast of stars and familiar faces that feels like a throwback to the 70s era of moviemaking where films such as this were frequent (‘The Towering Inferno’ and the 1978 ‘Death on the Nile’ to cite two). That cast includes Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer as the recently married couple at the centre of the drama, alongside Emma Mackey as Hammer’s spurned lover, with other characters played by the likes of Annette Bening, Letitia Wright, Sophie Okonedo, Russell Brand, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. You’ll see a lot of them as Branagh’s approach to shooting aftermath scenes is to have every character appear in shot at pretty much the same time.
I was big fan of the 1978 version of this film and I can’t help but feeling this new version is a bit too polished and self knowingly winking at the audience. It still has the strong mystery at its heart but a lot of the fun and mystery has been taken out of it, and it never raises itself above a film that you could imagine watching on ITV on a Sunday afternoon in future. That’s fine – not all films can be masterpieces, but I had slightly higher expectations for this from Branagh and his cast.
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Annette Bening, Armie Hammer, Gal Gadot, Emma Mackey, Tom Bateman, Russell Brand, Dawn French, Rose Leslie, Ali Fazal, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, Letitia Wright and Susannah Fielding