Death on the Nile Review

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Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express was a solid adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit. If you had already seen the 1974 version starring Albert Finney, though, there wasn’t much reason to rush out for Branagh’s film. Branagh isn’t the first director to tackle Death on the Nile either, having previously been adapted in 1978. Branagh’s Death on the Nile doesn’t drastically differ from the mystery that longtime fans will already know. On a visual and narrative level, however, Nile is a significant step up from Branagh’s previous take on Hercule Poirot.

Branagh reprises his role as Poirot, a detective with a thick Belgian accent and an even thicker mustache. As over-the-top as the mustache appears at first glance, Death on the Nile provides a literal and figurative look behind it. Branagh digs deeper into the detective’s past, exploring his flaws and what makes him tick. Where Poirot primarily existed to spout exposition and one-liners in the previous film, his arc is more dramatically fulfilling here. While the supporting cast isn’t quite as stacked as Orient Express’, Branagh still assembles quite the ensemble piece.

Gal Gadot looks like she wandered out of cinema’s golden age as Linnet Ridgeway, a wealthy heiress on her honeymoon with Armie Hammer’s Simon Doyle. In addition to Poirot, several other colorful suspects/characters have tagged along for an Egyptian getaway. The standouts include Poirot’s close friend Bouc (Tom Bateman), his cynical mother (Annette Bening), a snazzy jazz singer (Sophie Okonedo), her headstrong niece (Letitia Wright), and an almost unrecognizable Russell Brand. There’s also one unwelcomed guest: the scene-stealing Emma Mackey from Sex Education as Jacqueline de Bellefort, Linnet’s ex-friend and Simon’s ex-lover. You can fill in the blanks.

Naturally, a death occurs on the Nile, although not as quickly as some might expect. It takes about an hour for any dead bodies to show up, which might frustrate some viewers. While it doesn’t get to the murder as quickly as Orient Express does, Death on the Nile is a more atmospheric and aesthetically interesting picture. Although being stuck on a train with a murderer is a creepy, claustrophobic setup, the limited setting can grow tiresome after a while. Branagh takes full advantage of this story’s locale, taking us from the Great Pyramids to Abu Simbel. Some scenes were filmed on location in Morocco, but Branagh relies heavily on CGI too. Even when the CG is at its most obvious, though, Branagh’s interpretation of Egypt is always stunning.

When we do finally arrive at the death on the Nile, Branagh delivers the compelling mystery you’d expect. The boat also opens the door for more exploration than we got in Orient Express. Although there’s more space to move around, there’s still a sense of danger lurking around every corner. While the twist ending will catch newcomers off guard, the old guard may ask if another adaptation was entirely necessary. The final act is executed in such a satisfying manner, however, with the performers firing on all calendars. For fans of whodunits, young and old, it’s hard to resist.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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