Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dan French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, and Letitia Wright
It’s been a little over four years since Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express as released, with Death on the Nile teased in the final moments with a 2019 release date announced shortly afterwards. After production delays and then Covid delays, the film is now finally here. It’s been so delayed that Branagh’s Belfast went into production and was released slightly before.
While on holiday in Egypt, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) runs into his old friend Bouc (Tom Bateman), who invites him to Linnet (Gal Gadot) and Simon’s (Armie Hammer) honeymoon celebration with their close friends and family. Simon’s ex Jackie (Emma Mackey) has been following the honeymoon party in an attempt to cause pain for the couple, even threatening to commit murder. To escape Jackie, the group they board a cruise ship on the Nile, not knowing that Jackie is going to join them at the next stop. On board the ship, Linnet is murdered and each of the passengers has a motive. Poirot takes it upon himself to solve the murder, narrowing down his suspects one by one.
Death on the Nile is a film of two halves. The first half builds up the characters, slowly giving them all a motive to kill Linnet, and showing the lavish and luxurious lifestyles that the characters all live. Then once Linnet has been murdered the story becomes a much more focused investigation in the case, slowly revealing the clues and twists until everything is revealed at the end. The pacing between the two sections is all over the place. It seems to take a very long time to get to the murder, which is when the film really gets going. There’s an entire subplot in the opening that gives an origin story to Poirot’s moustache, that just isn’t needed at all.
Once the murder has happened, the film is really entertaining and gripping. It keeps you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out the case with the legendary detective, who is brilliantly portrayed by Kenneth Branagh. Just like in Murder on the Orient Express, Branagh is clearly having fun with his performance, and it’s the absolute highlight of the film. The entire cast is great, but it’s Poirot that we’re all here to watch.
There’s a lot of twists and turns, with more than a few shocking moments and reveals throughout the film as it leads up to the big reveal. The story is a classic for a reason, and it is expertly crafted here, with so much attention to detail and flair to the design. The costumes, the sets, the locations they completely consume you as you become involved in the story.
While the film is a little bloated, it’s still an excellent mystery. Branagh’s Poirot is great and we can only hope that this isn’t the last time we see him in the role.
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