Kenneth Branagh wears two hats as director and star in 20th Century Studios Death on the Nile. Branagh steps back into the role of Agatha Christie's fictional Belgian detective Hercule Poirot whose Egyptian vacation aboard a glamorous river steamer turns into a terrifying search for a murderer when picture-perfect couple Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) and Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle (Gal Gadot) idyllic honeymoon is tragically cut short. Set against an epic landscape of sweeping desert vistas and the majestic Giza pyramids, this tale of unbridled passion and incapacitating jealousy features a cosmopolitan group of impeccably dressed travelers.
The travelers include a painter name Euphemia (Annette Benning), and her son Bouc (Tom Bateman). Bouc is also a friend and confidant to Poirot. There’s also Linus Windlesham (Russell Brand) who is an aristocratic doctor and Linnet's former fiancé. Also in the mix is, the Otterbourne family which comprises of Jazz singer Salome (Sophie Okonedo) and her niece/business manager Rosalie (Letitia Wright), also Linnet's old classmate. In the mix there’s also Jacqueline de Bellefo (Emma Mackey), Linnet's jealous former friend and former lover to Simon.
Given the wicked twists and turns that may leave some audience members guessing until the final, shocking denouement, I want to try and keep my review as brief as possible. Furthermore, this is the third screen adaptation of Christie's novel, following the 1978 film and an episode of the television series Agatha Christie's Poirot broadcast in 2004.
Before seeing 2017's Murder on the Orient Express, I can't ever recall seeing any previous works involving the character of Hercule Poirot. I did enjoy that film though, and with the stacked cast that the sequel has, I had high expectations for it. Much to my dismay, director Kenneth Branagh and returning screenwriter Michael Green miss the mark on second time around. The film starts out promising enough, with some pre-credit backstory on why the character wears a mustache, which had me invested. I was also quite fond of the introductions to the characters of Simon, Linnet, and Jacqueline.
However, the film is a drag setting up the murder aspect, which is supposed to be our centerpiece of the film. Quite possibly, the intent the writer and director were going for was character building, but as a complete project, the movie didn't mesh well for me. I will give credit to the cast as they all have good moments, with Brand and Branagh standing out, but throughout the film’s duration I found myself fighting sleep while trying to keep up with the pacing.
While I won't say that Death on the Nile is a total wash, I think it will be a while before I visit another case with Hercule Poirot.
Final Grade: C-