Death on the Nile


‘…makes something cinematic of Poirot’s gimlet-eyed view of the upper classes enjoying their privileges….’

‘People kill for love,’ intones Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) with some solemnity; in an Agatha Christie story, that’s just as well, since a crime of passion always makes for a fruity investigation. Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express was a surprise success, and that film ended with a promise that he’d follow-up with Death on the Nile, a notion that seemed surprising in that he was reviving the diminishing sequence of Poirot films from the 1970’s. But while the first film just about breathed life into the most overdone of old chestnuts, Death on the Nile is a rather less well-travelled path in terms of Christie adaptations, and this adaptation is pretty solid in terms of ticking the boxes of a Poirot adventure; at least you probably won’t remember who the killers are this time around.

We start with an origin story, less for Poirot himself as for his ridiculous moustache; in a black and white opening, we see how Poirot got a facial scar while serving in WWI, a disfigurement he was advised to obscure with flamboyant facial hair. Having cleared this less-than-pressing question up, we join the Belgian detective as he enjoys some bluesy jazz club music, while all the time keeping a beady eye on the impending nuptials of Simon Doyle and Jackie de Bellfort (Armie Hammer and Gal Gadot). The couple are soon honeymooning in Egypt, and Poirot joins the motley crew of a steamboat heading down the Nile, where drugs, missing revolvers and all the murder-mystery package-tour elements are firmly in place.

There are distractions, not all of them good. “Of all the pyramids in the world… you had to walk into mine’ is a comedic line, but doesn’t make much sense given that the source film that popularised it (Casablanca) came out some five years after this film is set (1937). Other ingredients work better; it’s nice to see venerable tv comics Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders working together again, and even Russell Brand manages to make a decent first of playing a part that isn’t an extension of his resistible celebrity persona; he’s the ship’s doctor here. All the characters are introduced in a giddy rush, then get their moment in the interrogation spotlight as the dogged Poirot tries to figure out just who shot who.

The release of Death on the Nile has been delayed several times, and finally drops without much fanfare as the world begins to crawl out from under a pandemic that decimated cinema schedules and audiences. But there’s not much to complain nor write home about here; Branagh has fashioned a spectacularly old-fashioned, well-upholstered film that plays engagingly with the whodunit tradition, and makes something cinematic of Poirot’s gimlet-eyed view of the upper classes enjoying their privileges. The grey pound audience may still be at home for now, but chances are they’ll catch up eventually; there’s enough juice in Branagh’s vision of Poirot to make a third go-around worthwhile for genre fans.


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  1. Not four-star but above three-star I thought. I liked the extra personal dimension, not so much the moustache origin story but that he had the smarts in the First World War, and also that he took a hammering from all sides for his obsessive personality. Apart from those who hired him, and even then they had doubts, I can’t recall a single positive statement from the assembled. Nice to see he was inept at expressing feelings. Was put off a bit by Britishers doing American accents and didn’t think Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders or Russell Brand did much acting but I liked the way Branagh handled the camera which always seemed to hover just above Poirot. The plot was satisfying enough – you never guess whodunit and I was impressed with the Psycho trick.

  2. Been waiting for your review on this one. The trailer had me undecided…was hoping your review would make up my mind for me with a definitive pan or must see status. I’m still as on the fence as ever….

    And you’re right, I don’t remember the killer….so there’s that.

  3. I didn’t actually write this film, it was some woman called Agatha Christie, please address your complaints directly to her via her blog.

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