What to Watch This Weekend: Death on the Nile

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in 20th Century Studios’ DEATH ON THE NILE. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Death on the Nile is a story of murder most foul. Based upon the Agatha Christie novel, the tale largely takes place in 1937 Egypt against the backdrop of what is supposed to be a joyful occasion. Wealthy socialite Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) has gotten married to Simon (Armie Hammer) and several of their friends and family are in attendance to celebrate. However, not all the guests can honestly claim happiness for the new couple and several of them have ulterior motives. When one of the parties gets killed, it’s up to renowned detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) to solve the mystery.

What works in Death on the Nile is the style and characterization. Cinematographer Haris Zamabarloukous (Belfast, Thor) creates radiant scenes across the Egyptian landscape that sparkle. The imagery is bright and colorful, which makes for a wonderful contrast to the abhorrence lurking beneath. In addition, the costume design by Paco Delgado (Les Misérables) is stunning to behold, but also provides depth and context to each of the characters by accentuating their class and status.

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Speaking of, the entire ensemble appears to be truly relishing their roles. Branagh (who also directed) layers onto Poirot a richer backstory explaining further his idiosyncrasies, which are on full delightful display here. Also notable is Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) who gives a far more subdued and wounded performance than his typical fare as a physician and former love interest to Gadot. And finally, Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) sparkles as a no-nonsense crooner who playfully challenges Poirot’s uptight demeanor.

People who don’t enjoy straightforward murder mysteries may not appreciate Death on the Nile as much as others. Branagh has incredible reverence for the 1937 source material, almost to a fault. The whole affair unfolds in a manner that is both somewhat predictable but also mildly frustrating in that the twist feels full of contrived convenience. More modern narratives in this genre give the audience a bit more credit. One wonders if Death on the Nile could have felt slightly fresher had the creative team allowed themselves a bit more leeway in terms of structure and plot.

Death on the Nile is certainly glamorous, and fans of iconic Christie novels will find plenty to enjoy. Those new to the material may find the ride a smidge formulaic but will almost certainly still revel in the production quality.

Recommended if you Enjoyed: Murder on the Orient Express, Knives Out

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