'Death on the Nile' Review: This Exquisitely Made Whodunit Is an Entertainer
Review of Kenneth Branagh's 'Death on the Nile' starring Gal Gadot, Emma Mackey, Russell Brand.
Death on the Nile
'Death on the Nile' Review: Kenneth Branagh's Exquisitely Made Whodunit Is an Entertainer
As the first few minutes of Kenneth Branagh's Death on the Nile flit across on the big screen you'll probably want to double check if you've entered the right hall. Seeing the black and white visuals of World War I is unsettling in a good way, you are hooked and the narrative from then on doesn't let go.
Comparisons with Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express are inevitable as the filmmaker and actor steps once again into detective Hercule Poirot's immaculately polished shoes to adapt yet another of Agatha Christie's whodunits. Unlike the first outing, where most of the film was confined to the interiors of the Orient Express, here we are treated to the lavish outdoor shots of the pyramids of Giza, the towering Ramses statues of Abu Simbel, the expanse of Nile with the luxurious two-tiered SS Karnak floating across it and the palatial interiors of the Old Cataract Hotel on the banks of the Nile. Although the shots are CGI-enabled, it definitely makes the 2-hour-long film a big screen delight.
The plot of Death on the Nile is fairly simple. A rich heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) and an out-of-work Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer in his first release after he's been accused of rape and sexual assault) are on their honeymoon in Egypt with Ridgeway's close friends and family. They are also being stalked by a jealous Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey), who Doyle dumped for Ridgeway. Each of Ridgeway's guests too have a bone to pick with the powerful and influential heiress, so when a dead body is discovered aboard their luxury cruise while on the Nile, the greatest detective in the world must step in to exercise his grey cells to deduce who the killer might be.
Branagh's hold over the storytelling is firm, he keeps the narrative interesting from the go. There's an attempt to invest in Poirot's past, an unfulfilled romance, an origin story for the dapper Belgian detective's immense moustache. As an actor, Branagh is pitch perfect as the cocky and vain Poirot. But as the story progresses we see a chink Poirot's arrogant armour. When the body count increases, so does Poirot's emotional involvement in the case at hand, we are witness to the detective at his most vulnerable.
While Murder on the Orient Express had a hefty ensemble with actors such as Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfieffer and Willem Dafoe filling the screen time, Death on the Nile isn't equally populated with popular faces for the average Indian audience. But Gal Gadot and Emma Mackey are riveting on screen. Ali Fazal impresses as cousin Andrew, Sophie Okonedo and Letitia Michelle Wright stand out in the ensemble, Annette Bening and Russell Brand are impactful with what ever little they have to do. As mentioned before, it's Kenneth Branagh's commanding presence as Poirot who keeps us engaged and entertained in equal measure.
The only major miss in this thriller is in the depiction of the reveals. The slickness of the edit and crisp screenplay does not allow us to get into Poirot's mind, the logic behind his deductions, the process by which he reaches certain conclusions is sacrificed perhaps for the pacing. However, this aside, Death on the Nile is an exquisitely made captivating film and I'm already waiting for Branagh's next appearance as Poirot.
Rating: 3.5 Quints out of 5
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