Death on the Nile Review
Death on the Nile, Kenneth Branagh's much-delayed follow-up to the 2017 adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express is finally out in theaters. Branagh once again returns to star as world-famous French detective Hercule Poirot during his holiday on a luxury cruise to Egypt. Poirot can't help but observe those around him and takes interest in one specific couple who seriously needs to get a room; Jacqueline de Bellefort and Simon Dolye (Emma Mackey and Armie Hammer.) Moments later, Poirot witnesses Jacqueline introduce Simon to her old friend Linnet (Gal Gadot), and immediately a new spark comes to life. Six weeks later, Poirot learns that Simon switched his affections completely to Linnet and the two are now married, leaving a jilted Jacqueline in their wake. The two plan a cruise on the Nile for their honeymoon but insist that Poirot comes along for protection. Being that this is a murder mystery, it's no spoiler to say someone winds up murdered and it's up to Poirot to analyze the clues and find the killer at hand.
Agatha Christie's work was revolutionary, and her murder mystery novels are the blueprint for the genre today. Being a blueprint though, and having so many other movies imitate its style and storytelling...make for the original thing to feel a bit...predictable. There's not much surprise--I guessed the mystery about 20-30 minutes in, but it still makes for a pleasant enough ride. Poirot's meticulousness is fun and seeing him go through every possible angle of the case does have its entertainment, even if I didn't feel like it was much of a whodunnit. I can still appreciate the elegance of a good old-fashioned (literally) murder mystery.
I appreciated the cast, even if half of them have been canceled in real life by Twitter for varying reasons of severity (admittedly, it was off-putting seeing Armie Hammer again, and this wasn't his strongest performance either). Some performances worked better for me than others Annette Bening in particular felt jarring, while an unrecognizable Russell Brand totally worked. Branagh really has fun with the role, and it makes the movie better for it. Emma Mackey is probably the standout of the cast and plays the jilted lover role well. You just don't know what she's capable of and having one loose cannon for this type of movie is necessary.
Death on the Nile is nothing revolutionary, but honestly, it's an easy enough watch to mildly recommend. Still, there were some choices I really didn't love, such as the opening black and white sequence that essentially acts as an origin story for why Poirot has his famous mustache (seriously? we're spending time on this??), as well as the hinted side romance for Poirot with one of the passengers who is a blues singer that just feels tacked on. Also, can I just say, wow this movie is horny...and awkwardly so. While this is a perfect "recommend to your parent" movie, maybe just don't watch it with them. Again, it's even more awkward when one of the participants always happens to be Armie Hammer. Yikes.
In the end, it's hard to be mad that Death on the Nile is full of tropes when it's based on the material that invented them. Even if you know exactly where it's going you'll have a fine time. Just don't expect it to be something that stays with you long-term, because it won't.