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Film Review: Death On The Nile

Director:    Kenneth Branagh

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

Rating:     M

Running Time:     127

Australian Distributor:     20th Century Studios (Disney)

 

Few directors toggle as easily between high – and middle-brow as Kenneth Branagh. He’s directed Shakespearean adaptations, superhero films, mediocre Disney stuff, and even a misbegotten Jack Ryan reboot. Branagh has directed nineteen films since 1989, although six of them have come out since 2017.

That run began with 2017’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, and now Branagh — whose successfully Oscar-grubbing autobiographical drama Belfast came out only last fall — has returned with a second instalment in his Hercule Poirot mini-franchise Death on the Nile.   

Filmed prior to Belfast, and delayed multiple times due to both COVID and, presumably, complications involving the off-screen life of a certain cast member, Death on the Nile is a perfectly entertaining whodunit that goes deeper into Poirot’s personal history than this type of movie typically does. That said, I’d almost forgotten everything about it by the time I got back to the car.

Death on the Nile is based on the 1937 novel by Christie, and while Murder on the Orient Express was about a murder on a train, the new movie moves the action, mostly, to a boat. Once again, it’s a murder mystery set in a confined space in which anyone could be a suspect. This one, however, opens with a flashback to World War I, in which we’re shown how Poirot (Branagh) got the wounds that he covers with his famous facial hair.

A group has gathered, in an Egyptian resort and later on a boat cruise down the titular river, to celebrate the recent marriage of Linnet (Gal Gadot) and Simon (Armie Hammer). Simon was recently engaged to Linnet’s best friend Jacqueline (Emma Mackey), who has shown up uninvited to the festivities.     

As you may have guessed, somebody gets murdered, and suspicion falls on various people at different times. There’s Bouc (Tom Bateman), a mama’s boy, as well as his mama (Annette Bening). There’s a doctor, played by an unrecognizable Russell Brand, and a doctor (Ali Fazal), as well as a maid (Rose Leslie). Intriguingly, there’s also Linnet’s godmother (Jennifer Saunders), who happens to be a communist. And Sophie Okonedo plays a jazz singer, who’s accompanied by her niece (Letitia Wright).

The film is relatively well-shot and mounted, with the scenario gorgeous and the boat a fine and well-explored set. And the cast acquits themselves well, whether they’re big stars or not, with Hammer doing a decent job in what’s likely to be the last time we see him for a good while.

Entertaining as Death on the Nile is, it’s very disposable, and very much not a film that’s likely to stay with you.

 

 

 






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