The air is hot, the champagne keeps flowing, sunsets turn the Egyptian sky a blazing pink, and your new handsome husband is always flashing you a dashing smile. You think that life cannot get any better… but then, you are murdered. Such is the premise for the movie Death on the Nile. Released in North America on February 11, British director/actor Kenneth Branagh brings this grisly Agatha Christie novel to life.
This is Branagh’s second go at playing the role of the famous mustached detective, Hercule Poirot. In 201, he acted in and directed Murder on the Orient Express. Initially, Death on the Nile was supposed to be released in 2020, but due to the COVID pandemic, the release kept getting pushed back. Finally, we get a chance to see it.
Branagh deviates a little bit from the book, in terms of some of the characters’ physical characteristics, as well as in not including a few characters. He also adds a backstory to the life of Hercule Poirot. In the beginning of the movie, a personal, human side of Poirot is shown during his days as a young soldier. For those who are not familiar with Poirot, he can come across as a bit of a know-it-all with a superiority complex. Branagh attempts to break that down by presenting us with a tragic love story from Poirot’s past, as well as offering an explanation for the origin of his signature mustache. While this is a nice touch, it has little to do with the story of Death on the Nile. While Branagh attempts to link the two together, the relationship comes out a bit choppy and irrelevant.
After Poirot’s little life-history blurb, the movie begins to follow the book in a fairly accurate manner. Linnet Ridgeway is a glamorous heiress who meets a penniless Simon Doyle through her school friend Jacqueline de Belfor. At the time of the meeting, Simon and Jaqueline are engaged. But the moment Linnet meets Simon, she is smitten and it seems Simon feels the same way.
The film fast forwards to six weeks later where the newly married couple are honeymooning in Egypt. They have invited some close friends and family to continue the wedding celebrations, which are being held at a luxury resort. Poirot happens to be on a personal holiday in Egypt, when he runs into his wealthy friend Bouc (whom he first met on the Orient Express, many months ago). Bouc invites him to join the wedding party—much to the disdain of his aristocratic mother. Once introduced, Simon and Linnet take a liking to him right away. But as the festivities continue, an unwanted guest surfaces—Jacqueline.
Apparently she has been stalking the couple for quite some time. Simon and Linnet argue about whether they should continue with their honeymoon or go home. They decide to charter a luxury river boat to go down the Nile, stopping at a few historic sites on the way. They figure there is no way Jacquline would be able to follow them on the water, but insist that Poirot joins them for their safety. Then, while on the boat, one by one the murders begin. Realizing that they could all end up dead, Poirot scrambles to try and find out who the killer is. The story itself is riveting, with an ending that is most unexpected.
Even though the film was never shot on location in Africa, the use of CGI (computer-generated imagery) and sets creates a lovely and almost flawless Egyptian atmosphere. The gorgeous cinematography is complemented with fantastic acting from a star-powered cast. Gal Gadot plays Linnet. Armie Hammer plays Simon, Russel Brand plays Linnet’s ex fiancé. British comic duo Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French make an appearance. Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey and Sophia Okenedo also give stellar performances. Overall, Death on the Nile is a treat to watch. There are a few moments where the story seems a tad slow; however, there are many moments of drama, romance, deception and mystery to make up for it.