Death

Review of new film version of Agatha Christie’s ‘Death on the Nile’

April 10, 2022 Mario Bautista 195 views

Death1TWO of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels have been filmed before. The 1934 “Murder on the Orient Express” was first filmed in 1974 with Albert Finney as ace Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. He got nominated as Oscar best actor but it was Ingrid Bergman who won as best supporting actress for her role as a German maid.

This was a critical and commercial hit so in 1978, they filmed the 1937 novel, “Death on the Nile”, with Peter Ustinov as Poirot after Finney declined to play him again. This won the Oscar best costume design award.

In 2017, Kenneth Branagh did his own version of “Murder on the Orient Express”, with he himself playing Poirot. It was a big hit, earning more than $350 million worldwide, so it’s not surprising for him to follow it up with his own version of “Death on the Nile”, which was finished in 2020 yet but got delayed in its release by the pandemic.

Since he is the director, Branagh made numerous changes from the original material. He now starts “Death on a Nile” with a prologue showing Poirot as a soldier in World War I (also played by him but made to look younger by CGI) who gives a valuable suggestion to his superior that helped them in the war. But a bomb explodes in front of him and when his sweetheart nurse visits him, he shows that his face has deep, ugly wounds around his mouth.

The movie jumps to 1937 and we see that Poirot’s facial scars are now effectively concealed by his thick moustache. The core of the novel and the first film remains the same: a wealthy heiress, Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot), steals the handsome boyfriend, Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer, who became controversial because of the sex scandal and cannibalistic fantasies he got involved in that ruined his career), of her best friend, Jackie de Bellefort (Emma Mackey, best known for the Netflix series, “Sex Education”).

In their honeymoon in Egypt along the Nile River aboard the cruise ship Karnak, Linnet invites some people to join them in their trip. It is here that a lot of alterations were made as most of the characters from the original were changed. The new cast is also now multi-racial with blacks and Asians.

Poirot’s trusted companion reappears from “Murder in the Orient Express”, Bouc (Tom Bateman). In the original, the friend was played by David Niven as Colonel Race. Here, it’s not only Buoc who shows up but also his mama, Euphemia (Anette Benning), a painter.

Other characters who join the boat trip are Marie Van Schuyler (Jennifer Saunders), Linnet’s godmother, and her companion, Mrs. Bowers (Dawn French); Andrew Katchadourian (Ali Fazal), Linnet’s cousin who manages her finances; Dr. Linus Windlesham (Russell Brand), Linnet’s former boyfriend; Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo), a jazz singer; Rosalie (Letitia Wright), Salome’s niece and Buoc’s secret girlfriend; and Linnet’s personal maid, Louise Bourget (Rose Leslie). Jackie also shows up in the boat as she’s stalking the newlyweds and Linnet asks Poirot’s protection from her.

Of course, that’s all we can share with you. We can’t even mention who the murder victim is. Most of the characters have their own motives for the murder but later on, they will also have their own alibis.

Here, several other people would die, including someone you’d think won’t be killed as it’s a character dear to Poirot, who’s really given much importance here with his own moustache origin story and an epilogue that even shows him pursuing his new love interest.

As usual, the omniscient Poirot ticks off his suspicions and clues, tracks down the red herrings, irons out the twists and turns in the story, then for the grand finale, he comes up with the Big Reveal. It’s all very contrived and honestly, we were wondering why they need to come up with a remake for today’s generation of contemporary viewers who are now so attuned to digital video games.

It really looks more like a case of a passion project aka self-indulgence for Branagh who we read wants to make his own Agatha Christie cinematic universe. He has given himself too much significance in this movie and in all fairness to him, he carried the Poirot character well with his over the top accent, but not the movie itself.

It’s said the film had a budget of $90 million and you can see it in the costumes, set, and all the CGI they employ for the period setting. But truth to tell, there were so many stretches that we find boring and meandering.

Establishing the main story with its plodding pacing is truly so cumbersome. It takes about an hour before the first murder takes place. The big cast can only do so much as there’s really not much substance into their roles.

Will there still be another movie based on an Agatha Christie murder mystery novel after this? We doubt it, since this one didn’t really earn as much as ‘Murder in the Orient Express”.

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