REVIEW: ‘Death on the Nile’ isn’t a fit for the big screen

Trains are out and boats are in for this latest installment in the, um, Agatha Christie Cinematic Universe.

A follow-up to the 2017 film “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Death on the Nile” once again features the detective character Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh). After a brief opening showing Poirot’s experiences in World War I, the film picks up with the detective enjoying a vacation in Egypt. It’s there where he meets up with Bouc (Tom Bateman), a friend of Poirot’s who was also on the Orient Express.

After the two cross paths, Bouc introduces the detective to the newly married couple of Linnet (Gal Gadot) an Simon (Armie Hammer). Poirot is then invited to the honeymoon, which is taking place on a river cruise with several other characters. As the name suggests, a person dies onboard and it sets off another mystery for Poirot to solve.

This is a movie that had originally been set for a late 2019 release, but because of the pandemic and production issues, it was pushed all the way back to 2022. All things considered, it probably should’ve just went straight to home streaming, because it feels like something more fitted for a serialized television show.

Branagh, who also helmed the picture, has his ups and downs as a director. “Belfast” from late 2021 showed he can craft a beautiful movie. However, his “Death on the Nile” adaptation feels flat.

The elegance of the wealthy characters is on display with the lavish costumes, but much of the film still lacks style. The editing and cinematography don’t enhance what’s a rather straightforward who-dun-it. Attempts to amplify the film’s look with sweeping CGI establishing shots of Egypt do little to make it more visually appealing.

deathnileblog
Courtesy 20th Century Studios.

Despite lacking a distinct cinematic atmosphere, though, “Nile” is at least benefitted by having a director like Branagh to make at least a competent film. It’s structured well enough to be watchable, it just doesn’t have any wow factor.

What helps keep the movie entertaining for audiences, though, is its lead character. The film gives the Poirot a bit more depth to start off with, showcasing his time in the war, and then follows that up with a more intense portrayal of the character.

Unlike his appearance in “Murder on the Orient Express,” Poirot is less refined, more aggressive and, to put it simply, fed up with peoples’ BS. His investigation is assertive and as time goes on, he becomes more upfront with others on the cruise when the situation gets worse.

The film’s supporting characters, though, are less interesting. There are few big personalities to really capture attention. The investigatory interview process can sort of feel repetitive because few of the potential suspects are bland. The only character as memorable as Poirot is Jackie (Emma Mackey), a woman who wants to break up the new husband and bride.

“Death on the Nile” is a competent, but unsensational feature. In front of and behind the camera, Branagh fights to make this succeed, but the results are just around average. 2.85 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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