‘Death on the Nile’ movie review: Comme ci, comme ça

All who enjoy Agatha Christie novels for the cleverly put-together puzzles and familiar characters, are sure to be disappointed with this version

For all who have been waiting with bated breath for the sequel to Kenneth Branagh’s The Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile finally steams in two years late. Has the wait been worth it? Comme ci, comme ça, would be my reply.

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Though the film was not shot in Egypt (CGI and Morocco to the rescue), some of the establishing shots are lovely. The costumes are exquisite and it is always fun to watch a glittering, glitzy ensemble cast do their thing. Death on the Nile, however, falls short by several degrees on the mystery side. Based on Agatha Christie’s eponymous novel, this is the third adaptation following the 1978 film with Peter Ustinov as Poirot and an episode in Agatha Christie’s Poirot with David Suchet.

All who enjoy Christie novels for the cleverly put-together puzzles and familiar characters, are sure to be disappointed with this version which spends time on a back story for Poirot’s (Branagh) magnificent moustaches and lost love—no, not the Countess Rossakoff, and not much on clues, suspects and Poirot exercising his little grey cells.

Characters from the book have either been excised or changed around or combined. So while there is no Colonel Race, the angry young nobleman, Mr Fergusson, and Dr Bessner have been combined to form Dr Windlesham (Russell Brand). Even more bizarre is converting Tim Allerton and his mum to Bouc (Tom Bateman, from Orient Express) and his mum Euphemia (Annette Bening).

Death on the Nile

  • Director: Kenneth Branagh
  • Cast: Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Kenneth Branagh, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, Letitia Wright
  • Storyline: When a murder happens aboard a luxury steamer on the Nile, Hercule Poirot has to use his little grey cells to find out whodunit
  • Run time: 127 minutes

Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo) is no longer the sad romance novelist no one reads anymore with a drinking problem. She is instead a successful singer who just might have captured Poirot’s heart. Rosalie (Letitia Wright) is not her daughter as in the book but her niece and business manager. Marie Van Schuyler (Jennifer Saunders) is not a kleptomaniac rather she is communist who has given all her wealth to the party. Her companion, Mrs. Bowers, is played by Dawn French. Incidentally Maggie Smith was a hoot as Bowers in the 1978 version.

Despite all these changes, the central mystery and resolution remains the same; so, if you have read the book, then you will know the resolution and be annoyed or indifferent to Branagh’s alterations. Jacqueline (Emma Mackey) and Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) are desperately in love but penniless. Jacqueline’s best friend, Linnet (Gal Gadot) is a wealthy heiress and Jacqueline feels if Linnet were to hire Simon as her estate manager, all their money problems would be sorted.

Unfortunately, Simon is dazzled by Linnet and he breaks off his engagement to Jacqueline to marry Linnet. A furious Jacqueline follows the couple on their honeymoon in Egypt, making a scene much to Linnet’s chagrin. A murder happens aboard a luxury steamer on the Nile and Poirot steps in to solve the crime.

Emma Mackey (Maeve from Sex Education) makes for a wonderful Jacqueline, while Gadot looks regal as Linnet. Ali Fazal plays Linnet’s crooked lawyer, while Rose Leslie is Linnet’s maid, Louise, who also bears a grudge against her. Branagh as Poirot is not as distracting as he was in Orient Express and he thankfully does not giggle as he reads Dickens.

While there was a hint of Branagh tackling The Murder of Roger Ackroyd next—it was the growing of vegetable marrows, the ending seems to suggest that Branagh is done with the Belgian sleuth… which may not be such a bad thing.

Death on the Nile is currently running in theatres

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