Large ensemble casts and exotic locations are great. The downside to them comes in the form of balance. Unfortunately, “Death on the Nile” struggles to service either, which becomes a detriment to the audience.
On vacation, the quirky detective Hercule Poirot (played by Kenneth Branagh) is invited aboard the S.S. Karnak – a luxurious steamboat – to celebrate Mr. and Mrs. Simon Doyle’s (Armie Hammer and Gal Gadot) recent nuptials. The fun quickly turns to foul play when a murder takes place on the vessel. Now the legendary detective is on the case.
Writer Michael Green returns to adapt the screenplay and takes some liberties, adding in Poirot’s backstory. It’s gorgeously told in black and white, and while I prefer this story more than the one the movie is interested in telling, the scene seems unimportant and ultimately detracts from the rest of the film. The movie already takes a long time to get going, not to mention to build any tension.
Honestly, this story might have functioned better as a mini-series. Several sequences in the lead up to boarding of the Karnak feel disjointed. By the time the ship is ready to set sail, the story already seems too contrived. Plus, the murder doesn’t take place well into the Karnak’s journey on the Nile.
In addition to the manufactured plot, much of the film has a high gloss to it that give a lot of the exotic locations a sense that they are computer generated. Instead of Egypt looking grand, it looks cheap and artificial.
This cast is filled with talented names, but Sophie Okonedo and Letitia Wright are the standouts as Salome and Rosalie Otterbourne respectively. Emma Mackey is the next actress to do a lot of heavy lifting in the scenes she’s in. However, the rest of the cast struggle to find something interesting to do with their characters on board the ship. Some actors have such little screen time that it feels almost unfair to judge their performances.
Branagh is clearly having a fantastic time playing Poirot, but his odd mannerisms can only do so much before the performance turns into self-indulgence.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: The bonus featurettes are relatively short considering the movie’s runtime. The behind the scenes look provides more insight to some of the characters who aren’t prevalent in the film.
The deleted scenes are extended sequences of what we see in the film (some finished others not so much) which add some additional context but not very much.
- Death on the Nile: Novel to Film – Explore the new vision for Agatha Christie’s classic novel DEATH ON THE NILE, and how Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green collaborated with Christie’s estate to bring a new twist to this story of love and murder.
- Agatha Christie: Travel Can Be Murder – The story behind the book connects with Christie’s own love of travel, and especially Egypt and its secrets. Her legacy continues through her family and new generations of filmmakers and actors, all at once contributing to the immortality of her novels.
- Design on the Nile – The setting, the costumes, the photography, all contribute to the Agatha Christie touch. We take a fun tour of this “ship of suspects” and learn details about the overall look and design of everything from the characters to the environment.
- Branagh/Poirot – Kenneth Branagh is a one-of-a-kind artist who can switch hats with exceptional skill, playing Poirot one moment and directing the next. This piece pays tribute to Branagh’s ability to stay connected to his cast and creative team through it all.
- The Market
- Poirot’s Cabin
- Rosalie and Bouc Outside Temple
- Windlesham Jogging
- Poirot Discusses Case
- Poirot and Bouc Approach Jackie
- Confronting Bouc and the Otterbournes
- Poirot Orders Books
The Big Comic Page was provided a screener of the movie for review purposes. “Death on the Nile” is available on Digital now and the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD are available on April 5, 2022.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511