Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Premise: A follow up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express and based on the novel by Agatha Christie. Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) investigates the murder of a newly married heiress aboard a steamship on the Nile River.
What Works: Death on the Nile is an impressively unified movie. Nearly everything in it ties together and reinforces the film’s themes of lust and passion and jealousy. Death on the Nile is more stylistically produced than its predecessor and in places the movie is very sexy. Early twentieth century blues music figures into the picture and adds to the sensuality but also the heartache and sadness. The characters and their web of relationships reflect those ideas. Everyone on board the steamship has a relationship to the doomed heiress but not everyone appears to be after her money. The supporting characters are motivated by an array of personal, professional, and political jealousies that offer a wide range of motivations. Death on the Nile also delves into the backstory of Hercule Poirot and deepens his character. Poirot inherently comes across cartoonish but it’s revealed that his elaborate mustache conceals a facial disfigurement he suffered during World War I. The detective’s attention to detail is also given greater consideration. As played by Kenneth Branagh, Poirot has an obsessive-compulsive personality which makes him good at his job but unable to maintain social relationships. The movie is also funny, with much of the humor revolving around Poirot and his obsessions. It’s a humanizing sort of comedy that gives the film and its central character an empathetic quality.
What Doesn’t: The weaknesses of Death on the Nile are mostly rooted in the source material. A lot of details don’t make sense. The plot revolves around wealthy couple Linnet and Simon who are stalked by Jacqueline, a scorned woman who has a history with the groom. Given their wealth, it’s unbelievable that Linnet and Simon could not evade Jacqueline and it’s inexplicable why the newlyweds would bring all of these people along on their honeymoon. When the truth of the mystery is revealed, Jacqueline’s presence becomes even more unnecessary. The murder plot is so poorly planned on the part of the killers that it’s hard to believe anyone thought they would get away with it. Death on the Nile also suffers from the lack of romantic chemistry between actors Armie Hammer and Gal Gadot as Simon and Linnet. The filmmakers want us to believe that Simon was so taken with Linnet that he dumped his former fiancé for her. Linnet is clearly aware that as a wealthy woman she is a potential target for con-artists but Linnet shows no skepticism of Simon and the absence of heat between Hammer and Gadot draws attention to that inconsistency.
Bottom Line: Death on the Nile is overall a better movie than its predecessor. The plotting isn’t as tight, especially in the ending, but the film is handsomely produced and many of the characters have a human vulnerability that eclipses the narrative shortcomings.
Episode: #892 (February 27, 2022)