The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Death on the Nile

by George Bate and Josh Bate

Agatha Christie remains one of the best selling authors of all time, only outsold by Shakespeare and The Bible itself. It makes sense then that we’ve seen iteration after iteration of her most famous stories and characters on the big and small screen. The latest is Death on the Nile, once again starring, written, and directed by Kenneth Branagh in a follow-up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express. The latest Hercule Poirot mystery follows the legendary detective, who finds himself in Egypt with the life of a wealthy heiress under threat.

Death on the Nile is a refreshing, intelligent, and, ultimately, thoroughly enjoyable murder mystery. The film adopts a slower paced structure than what viewers may be used to in this genre, which is a good thing, because the pacing contributes significantly to the tension and intensity of Death on the Nile. Like the incredible source material the film is based on, the ‘murder’ part of this murder mystery doesn’t occur until roughly halfway through, leaving plenty of time for the audience to understand each of the characters and their motives. And, when the murder eventually occurs, we see Branagh’s Poirot fully in action as he unravels the case.

Branagh is the real star of the show here. He’s more settled in the role of Poirot compared to Murder on the Orient Express. With his second film as the character, Branagh is growing more and more confident in the role and has put enough unique spins on the character to make it his own. Unlike Christie’s original novel, Branagh dedicates more time to developing Poirot as a character, which is a little hit-or-miss. A beautifully crafted black and white opening sequence sets the stage for the powerful themes of love in the film, but the attempts to connect this theme more closely to Poirot himself feel a little forced – in particular, a love interest for Poirot that never really works. Outside of Branagh, the effectiveness of the cast is mixed. Performances from Gal Gadot and Letitia Wright fall flat or, unfortunately at times, but across as unintentionally funny. Meanwhile, supporting players Emma Mackey, Tom Bateman, Dawn French, and Jennifer Saunders excel in their roles.

Beyond the characterization of Poirot, Branagh remains faithful to Christie’s novel to a film that he makes feel like a grand, cinematic endeavor. The film is beautifully shot, and the on-location shoots add to a sense of genuineness and grandiosity that the film has in abundance. The ship on which the bulk of the film is set is also terrific in feeling like a character unto itself. Branagh intelligently introduces the audience to the geography / layout of the ship, which viewers feel closer to the mystery and characters at hand. 

Verdict: 8/10

Death on the Nile is a faithful adaptation of Agatha Christie’s iconic novel, marking another grand theatrical effort from writer, director, and star Kenneth Branagh in bringing the iconic Hercule Poirot to the big screen. Some weak performances and misguided characterization of Poirot take away little from what is an enthralling and visually stunning murder mystery. Fingers crossed there are more Agatha Christie adaptations like this in the future.

Images courtesy of 20th Century Pictures

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