Kenneth Branagh is fantastic as the master detective Poirot – a magnet for murder with an incredible eye for detail, taking a perilous vacation down the river Nile
In the world of literary crime fiction, its widely accepted that Agatha Christies Hercule Poirot is the world’s third best detective (behind Batman and Sherlock Holmes of course). Poirot has been solving deceptively devious murders across both film and tv screens for many decades. Death on the Nile is a remake of the 1978 film of the same name and sees Kenneth Branagh slip back both into the director’s chair and the instantly recognisable moustache of the master detective. This serves as a direct sequel to Branagh’s first film in the series, 2017’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express‘.
What is immediately obvious from the moment the camera rolls is Kenneth Branagh’s affinity for this character. He appears to genuinely enjoy embodying the legendary Belgian detective, from his flair for the dramatic to his love for sweet desserts. This film picks up after the events of the first movie and sees Poirot attempt to take another vacation, this time to Egypt to explore its many amazing wonders and beautiful sites. But where Poirot goes, murder seems to follow and as you would expect before long, we are treated to another trip down the rabbit hole of murder and mystery.
Unusually for the series, we are given a rare insight into Poirot’s background history as a soldier and get to observe the origins of not only his incredible instinct for deduction but also his other most distinctive feature-his moustache. What follows this introduction is a swift summary of all the main players, their connections and possible motivities so we can begin formulating ideas about who the murderer will be, even before we know who is going to be killed!
Find out just who’s who, below
Death on the Nile is full of gorgeous landmarks, beautiful scenery and understated yet interesting characters, all hiding dark secrets of their own. Branagh doesn’t waste a frame of the sweeping sands and glorious sunsets and easily transports us to another world for 2 hours. If you are a fan of murder mysteries and ‘who done its’ then you’ll be hard pressed to find a better package. The director keeps a tight rein on proceedings meaning there is rarely a dull moment. Even the silences are used to build a dry tension which matches the films feel perfectly.
There are many film makers who would rely on a convoluted, baffling story to avoid the audience unlocking the secrets too early on. Branagh understands the beauty of these movies is their deceptive simplicity. The film sticks to basic themes like greed, love, obsession, and betrayal which means as soon as we know the characters, we are able to ‘play along’ as detective.
The clever technique applied here is the film moves along at what appears to be a very relaxed pace and you find yourself almost willing the murder to happen so you can start working it out. But by the time the murder occurs, you realise you should have been paying closer attention to clues all the way through.
This is one of many films which suffered massive delays due to the pandemic but unlike the others, this one faced a much steeper uphill struggle upon its release. During the 18 months since its original delay, most of the lead actors have faced varying level of controversies which will undoubtedly affect the films reception. From Letitia Wrights alleged ‘antivaxxer’ support, to Gal Gadot’s comments around Israel/Palestine.
But these pale in comparison to the sexual assault allegations made against Armie Hammer. This has resulted in hardly any press/promotion from the stars in support of the movie’s release which will likely result in a more muted box office return. Add to that, Kenneth Branagh’s other film ‘Belfast‘ is a new release and already enjoying very positive reviews and serious Oscar buzz which might just leave this film slightly ignored or neglected, which would be a shame.
Death on the Nile is a terrific addition to the series, a slick and sexy murder mystery that keeps you guessing right to the end. The locations are beautiful, the diverse cast of characters are fun and Branagh is fantastic as Poirot. If you want a break from special effect laden movies and love a good old fashioned ‘who done it’, this should more than satisfy your need.
3.8 out of 5
Death on the Nile is out now in cinemas