Death On The Nile – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 7 minutes, Director – Kenneth Branagh

When a recently married bride (Gal Gadot) is murdered during her honeymoon Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) steps in to decipher which of the invited guests on a boat travelling down the Nile is the killer.

If there’s one thing that confirms Hercule Poirot as one of the smartest detectives, and fictional characters, around it’s perhaps, alongside his smashing moustache, the fact that he seemingly loves a jaffa cake. While not exactly looking like what we know them as it’s undeniably excellent to see him grieved by the disturbance of his enjoyment of “a sublime jaffa cake!”. He’s (Kenneth Branagh) disturbed by old friend Bouc (Tom Bateman) who, whilst flying a kite on the ancient pyramids, invites the detective along to a wedding celebration for two family friends – the recently married Simon (Armie Hammer) and Linnet (Gal Gadot) Doyle. However, surrounded by somewhat jealous friends and family, some distracted by the wealth on display, envy runs deep when Simon’s former fiancé of just six weeks prior, Jacqueline (Emma Mackey), stalks the pair on their honeymoon.

However, when Linnet is killed on the boat that acts as the couple’s honeymoon cruise down the Nile – which seems like a largely CG background with occasionally odd lighting on the characters making it stick out just that bit more – that the killer could be any one of the attendees. Therefore Poirot, who was taken on board to watch out for the newlyweds, puts his skills to use to find out who the murderer is before it’s too late. While he might have the sleuthing skills to know that jaffa cakes are indeed excellent there’s not quite enough from this second outing for Branagh’s take on Agatha Christie’s classic detective to make the actual detection scenes overly engaging. If anything the hour or so before the murder is actually more interesting than when the murder-mystery elements eventually come into play.

The film jumps through various interviews with each of the characters as if trying to remind you of who’s who each time and re-establishing potential motives. It almost runs through circles each time with each figure of the large ensemble cast – all of whom seem to instantly leap into hammy caricature as soon as the murder happens, apart from Gadot who is not only dead by this point but can’t exactly be said to be doing any subtle acting throughout her screen-time. There’s no overall point where you find yourself actively playing along and trying to guess who the killer is, instead simply watching Poirot try to reach a conclusion by asking various questions and eventually reaching his dramatic reveal.

While there’s still a watchable nature to the film, and overall it feels a slight step up from the very generic, middle-of-the-roadness of Murder On The Orient Express, it’s still apparent that the mystery isn’t as involving as everything that comes beforehand. While nothing overly stretching, simply seeing the slight tensions between characters and the interactions on the boat and various sights along the way does generally keep you in place for that chunk of the film. Things eventually build up to a comfortable point where there’s some level of consistency which the film gently travels along in something of a traditional way. You observe the characters and that’s about that. There may be occasional slices of humour, particularly from Dawn French as the nurse of Jennifer Saunders’ socialist godmother to Linette, but mostly the piece continues along a lightly dramatic note until the murder.

It’s easy to focus on the performances and the overall rapid change and nature between scenes in the second half of the film, yet there is still somewhat watchable and some likable moments and nuggets throughout. You’re still generally kept in place watching things unfold, even if not actively taking part, and perhaps the show-stealer is still Poirot’s undeniably excellent moustache. Yet, what’s provided is a film that juggles a lot of characters but manages to play along with its ‘everyone is a suspect’ idea rather well. You sit and watch things unfold in perhaps not the most elegant of ways, but still with a generally traditional feel that has enough within its busyness to make something of a good swipe, if not a clean cut.

The waters, and performances, may be choppier than hoped for, despite the traditional route, but there’s still a generally watchable nature to Death On The Nile. You might not play along with it, but thanks to the first half you’re generally situated in the piece for most of the busy run-time.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

One thought on “Death On The Nile – Review

  1. I kind of wish we could get some Christie adaptations that really lean in them as psychological examinations – more like plays – instead of getting so many that are distracted by lavish settings and settle for campy acting.

    Liked by 1 person

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