Star Rating:

Death on the Nile

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Actors: Gal Gadot, Tom Bateman, Agatha Christie, Annette Bening

Release Date: Friday 11th February 2022

Genre(s): Crime, Drama, Mystery

Running time: 127 minutes

Renowned investigator Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) takes a riverboat cruise along the Nile with a newly-married socialite couple (Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer), the jilted lover of one of them (Emma Mackey), and a coterie of potential suspects (Annette Benning, Russel Brand, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Rose Leslie, Ali Fazal) in a series of murders that takes place during their journey...

While David Suchet's portrayal of Hercule Poirot might be the one that immediately springs to mind when you think of the Belgian detective, Kenneth Branagh's managed to give himself another chance at the moustache. It's quite hard to inject something fresh into a founding text of murder-mystery like 'Death on the Nile', but Branagh is determined nevertheless. The problem is that the choices made seem almost like they're appealing to audiences weaned on cinematic universes. Does anyone really care how Poirot got his moustache? Is it germane to anything involving the murders aboard the Karnak? Truthfully, no, and what's funny is that the actual novel written in 1937 does a better job of setting the mindscape of Poriot far better than Michael Green's script. So why not use that instead?

Still, 'Death on the Nile' has its qualities. Branagh is able to turn the Karnak into a stage and places each and every one of his actors with a mind for the audience. You can tell that Branagh is not only relishing the chance to play Poirot on his own terms, but that he's enjoying the task of directing such a wide cast in a tight story. The problem is they're utilised in somewhat haphazard ways. French and Saunders, for example, barely get a chance to do something notable throughout the movie. Why put them together and not use them? Russell Brand feels utterly cast against type as Dr. Windlesham, while Gal Gadot really doesn't leave any impression as Linnet Ridgeway.

It's almost as if Fox greenlit the whole thing on the proviso that Branagh used a studio-approved cast, because it's clear that very few of them have chemistry together and almost seem to distract from one another than complement. Likewise, for a movie that could be easily wrapped up inside of a hundred minutes, 'Death on the Nile' manages to linger for a further twenty-odd minutes. Still, the production design and the costuming is lush and expensive, the music by Patrick Doyle soaks up the atmosphere, and Úna Ní Dhongnaíle's editing is lucid and clean. If another movie is to be made based on Agatha Christie's abundant work, it wouldn't be a bad idea for Branagh to hand directing off to someone else and consider the idea that the source material doesn't lend itself to superfluous additions.

While Kenneth Branagh might enjoy it and he's obviously passionate about the role and the material, something unique in terms of direction might give it a burst of vitality rather than maintaining the decidedly old-world presence it currently has.