Death on the Nile - Movie Review

Agatha Christie’s Famed Novel - Back on the Big Screen
Death on the Nile now in theaters
Death on the Nile now in theaters(IMDB)
Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 11:17 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 20, 2022 at 11:02 AM EST
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Death on the Nile Movie Review

I love the trailer for this movie- great use of the Depeche Mode song “The Policy of Truth.”

Kenneth Branagh continues to revive the Agatha Christie canon, with this glossy big budget remake that was scheduled to be released in 2020, then COVID hit, then the Armie Hammer sexual abuse scandal hit. Hammer is part of the all-star cast that includes Gal Gadot, Jennifer Saunders, Russel Brand, Annette Bening, Dawn French and Emma Mackey who steals every scene she is in. Branagh reprises his role as Belgium detective Hercule Poirot, and he also directs.

Branagh is terrific in the role, he brings humanity and humor to the famed detective’s exacting and eccentric personality. An added backstory involving Poirot’s service in World War One, where his intellect and ingenuity were on display, but he also suffered great loss add dimension to the present day (1937) workmanlike character, who suspects everyone of murder and who is often socially isolated. A physical wound and emotional wound also create depth. Good for Branagh, but not so good for the other characters who feel like Christie stock, even though they all have a backstory and cause to murder the first victim.

How much you enjoy Death on the Nile may depend on how much you enjoy the mystery genre, or the cast that is assembled here. When Branagh’s other Christie revival, Murder on the Orient Express, was released in 2017, it felt fresh, crisp and beautiful to look at. This film doesn’t feel the same way to me. Yes, it has great locations, and great costumes, and a great production design, but it doesn’t feel as fresh. It could just be bad timing, coming out when everyone is pandemic weary and no one cares about a whodunit.

The film was shot before Armie Hammer was cancelled because of disturbing and bizarre accusations involving rape and sexual cannibalism. This may not be something that resonates with the average viewer, but for those that follow entertainment news it looms throughout the first half of the film. Scenes of Hammer dirty dancing with Mackey’s character, then Gadot’s character are creepy. Ditto for scenes of sexual frolicking and grinding that push the pG-13 rating, with Gadot. It doesn’t help that Gadot and Hammer seem to have no chemistry whatsoever. Gadot’s charisma as the beautiful heiress Linnet Ridgeway is undeniable and Gadot has movie star presence. However, Hammer’s callow Simon Doyle, whose studly charm and charisma supposedly so enrapture Linnet that she cannot help but marry him, cannot match Gadot’s screen performance. Furthermore, his performance is just okay.

Faring better in the cast are Tom Bateman as Bouc an old friend of Poirot’s who has fallen in love with night club singer, Rosalie Otterbourne (Letita Wright) much to the chagrin of his controlling mother, Euphemia Bouc (Annette Bening). Their interracial love affair is a nice, modern matter of fact addition. It’s not overplayed for wokeness or to illuminate racism.

It is Emmy Mackey’s performance as the obsessed, menacing, and vulnerable jilted young lover, Jacqueline de Bellefort that is the real star making vehicle here. She shines despite a character that is flatly written who often has cheesy dialogue. The camera loves her, and this is a star making vehicle for her.

Death on the Nile is what movies should be, distracting, beautiful to look at and with enough depth to make you think, a little. It also is great to see a movie with a plot again-take a look at this years Oscar’s contenders, many of them feel plotless. Furthermore, the take on Poirot’s character, which is followed through to the very interesting last scene add to the genre; that may be old, but still works, especially when you have missed going to the movies.

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