The overlong Death on the Nile struggles with pacing and predictability issues.
Staring: Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, and Letitia Wright
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
The movie is called “Death on the Nile”. Its trailer had declared that “murder was just the beginning”. It would then not be unreasonable to expect that a death will happen relatively soon after the opening credits roll.
So, when you’re nearly halfway into the film, the promised tragedy still hasn’t transpired, and you find yourself screaming “Will someone die already?!” at the screen, don’t worry – it’s not you; it’s all entirely Kenneth Branagh’s fault.
The British filmmaker’s latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s work, once again starring himself in the lead role as famous detective Hercule Poirot, is too sluggish and predictable to offer much in the way of suspense or excitement.
The movie – a sequel to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express – begins with the backstory of a moustache. No, really. After it answers all the burning questions you never had about Poirot’s facial hair, it then leisurely goes about its business of introducing us to its many characters.
At the centre of the tale is heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot), who, soon after meeting her friend Jackie’s (Emma Mackey) fiance Simon (Armie Hammer) ends up marrying him instead.
Their extravagant wedding celebrations see the arrival of an assortment of guests: Linnet’s godmother (Jennifer Saunders) with a nurse (Dawn French) in tow; the bride’s former fiance (Russell Brand), her cousin (Ali Fazal), and her personal maid (Rose Leslie); a renowned jazz singer (Sophie Okonedo) with her niece (Letitia Wright); Poirot’s friend Bouc (Tom Bateman) alongside his painter mother (Annette Bening); and the jilted Jackie who keeps showing up everywhere uninvited
When the murder does – finally – happen, each person present on the cruise ship where the action unfolds has a potential motive. But it’s blindingly obvious from the very get-go not only who the victim will be (despite the movie’s insistence on dragging out the inevitable reveal) but also exactly who will commit the crime. How they commit the crime, meanwhile, is hilariously preposterous.
There are definitely a few turns that you won’t see coming, but overall, the result is more exasperating than entertaining. In the many decades since Christie wrote her irresistible detective thrillers, there have been so many imitations of her work that the twists – so imaginative when she penned them – have now become commonplace and tired, which is the problem the central mystery appears to face here.
The all-star cast is made up of so many well-known names, yet the performances often come off as lacklustre.
If you love an old-fashioned murder mystery though then you might find some enjoyment in this overlong drama. But the latest adaptation of Death on the Nile is too unexceptional to make its way on anyone’s essential viewing list.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection