Death on the Nile (2022)
Death on the Nile (2022)

Genre: Drama and Mystery Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.

Release Date: February 11th, 2022 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Kenneth Branagh Actors: Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Emma Mackey, Annette Bening, Tom Bateman, Rose Leslie, Russell Brand, Letitia Wright, Sophie Okonedo, Ali Fazal, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French

 


 

B

eginning with a bit of backstory not found in the book, infantryman Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) uses his exceptional observation skills to time the ambushing of a bridge during trench warfare in Belgium in 1914. He’s nothing short of a genius, though he’s not too keen when it comes to the fairer sex. “You are too sharp to be a farmer, Poirot.”

23 years later in London, that shrewd soldier is now a renowned detective, who happens to be at a swanky nightclub, sampling desserts and taking in the jazzy songs of Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo). He’s also privy to an interaction between socialite Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey) – who dances seductively with fiancé Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) – and heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot), a longtime friend whom Jackie wishes to introduce to the man of her dreams. But a mere six weeks later finds the romantic entanglements swapped; on the River Nile, as Poirot is on holiday admiring the pyramids (“I am in hiding from cases!”), Doyle appears with his new bride Linnet, much to the chagrin of Jackie, who closely stalks their activities.

This setup creates the perfect opportunity for something dastardly to befall Ridgeway, who appears to have stolen away Jacqueline’s man in a very short period. But the heiress has plenty of other people surrounding her who might have ill intentions as well; the hotel inhabitants present an ever-expanding, wide assortment of suspects sure to be accused of an eventual murder. From business associates to friends and family – including a godmother, a nursemaid, a cousin, a doctor, and a schoolfriend – anyone could be behind a plot to off Ridgeway. And it doesn’t help that Jackie herself keeps showing up at random locations as if Maleficent, bitter at not being invited to the festivities and anxious to curse the happy couple. Even the total isolation of the cruise ship Kornak – upon which Simon and Linnet can celebrate their honeymoon among special guests only – isn’t safe from harassment and, ultimately, death.

Sightseeing and reminiscing eat up only a few minutes, but the large collection of lovers and revelers take up a significant portion of screentime. Effectively delaying the central murder and the ensuing, masterful sleuthing, the abundance of potential suspects additionally receives, individually, precise connections and relationships and conversations, building up the sense that Ridgeway has a striking dearth of real friends. And this is before they undergo Poirot’s signature interrogations, with his investigation digging up even more details about sordid pasts and unknown links between the passengers. For a classic yet older mystery design, this modern retelling is riddled with pacing issues.

Though he’s no Suchet, Branagh is an entirely convincing iteration of Agatha Christie’s beloved hawkshaw, managing to be thoughtful, likable, wise, forceful, and sensitive at just the right moments. If it weren’t for the teemingness of supporting characters, some of whom feel as if included simply to complicate the suspect pool to the point that audiences will struggle to guess the ending, Branagh’s Poirot might even deserve extra sequences to enjoy his unmatched cleverness. Even with accruing crimes, edited to be as thrilling as expected in the confines of a boat that provide greater opportunities for heated debates than escalating murders, the plot is too slow to maintain much suspense. It’s a notable mystery story from one of the most celebrated best-selling fiction writers of all time, but here the flow is unbalanced, unable to be visualized as consistently nail-biting or absorbingly intellectual; the last act is basically a dragging, uninspired postponement to arrest the big reveal – after which there isn’t anything left for Poirot to do but conspicuously dismiss such minor transgressions as embezzlement and attempted murder.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10