Death on the Nile

Rating :   ⭐️ ⭐️ 

Categorisation: Crime drama

Availability: In theatres

Plot: Unusually, Kenneth Branagh’s sumptuous adaptation and direction of Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel begins with a prequel scene in black and white. Hercule Poirot is a young soldier in the trenches during the First World War. Soon we have an explanation for his extraordinary moustache. Then, shifting to full colour, we move into the main plot – Jacqueline and Simon are in love. Jacqueline’s best friend, heiress Linnet, steals Simon from her. Then Linnet and Simon host all their friends (except for Jacqueline) in a no-expenses-spared wedding, after which they planned to honeymoon in Egypt. Naturally this doesn’t go down well with Jacqueline, who stalks the couple, driving them to change their plans. They hire a magnificent riverboat and take all their friends on a tour of the Nile, as you do when you have unlimited personal wealth. But the threat of Jacqueline is ever-present, and soon people start dying in suspicious circumstances. Fortunately Hercule Poirot is one of the guests and he uses his superior sleuthing skills to investigate. 

Cast: As Hercule Poirot, Kenneth Branagh is surprisingly disappointing. I appreciate that many people will have a particular impression of the Poirot character, particularly given David Suchet’s long history of playing Hercule in the successful TV series. But Branagh’s performance comes across as somewhat artificial, as does his dreadful rendition of the Belgian accent. I hope they never show the film in Poirot’s hometown. So not a good start in casting Branagh as Poirot. Given the vast talent in the rest of the star-studded cast, you might think this would be enough to redeem it. Unfortunately, not so. Gal Gadot as Linnet and Armie Hammer as her husband, Simon, are undoubtedly a handsome couple, but they have no relational spark whatsoever. This makes the unlikely union even less likely. Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French, the long-standing comedy duo, do their best with what they are given, but nevertheless struggle to lift the tedium. Thankfully Sophie Okonedo as Salome Otterbourne is an exception. Her singing and performance on-stage (and off) is outstanding. 

Filming and Setting: Death on the Nile is brimming with Art Deco splendour. The riverboat is marvellous, and the river scenes are stunning. While the river scenes were filmed by a crew in Egypt, the rest of the filming was done in the UK. This included building the riverboat and creating replicas of the Abu Simbel temples and the spectacular Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan. In the main this worked brilliantly, although it has to be said that the the temples have a very artificial look to them. But this aside, the producers went to extraordinary lengths to create an authentic vision of the splendour of the time and place under challenging covid circumstances.

Personal Comments: There is no question that this is a glittering production. But despite all of its sparkle, and it’s stellar cast, the film is oddly vacuous, and more than a little dull. In the end, it just isn’t enough to rely on displays of the fabulously rich an famous. Branagh has adapted Agatha Christie’s books before, in particular his 2017 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. That was a film that received very mixed reviews, and I suspect this one might experience a similar fate.

2 Replies to “Death on the Nile”

  1. 2 stars Marie! It doesn’t want to make you rush to see this one. I am so enjoying your reviews. Such a good way to start a Friday.

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