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Death on the Nile–No Lifesaver Needed

Death on the Nile,   a 2022 remake of Agatha Christie’s 1937 classic novel, is directed by and stars Kenneth Branagh. Cinematic adaptations from books, especially from beloved authors like Agatha Christie are only for the intrepid.  And Branagh is on a path to making a series of Christie screen adaptations, starting with his first film, “Murder on the Orient Express (2017).” 

In the opening scene the young Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, devises a brilliant strategy to defeat the German forces in the  trenches of World War One. Seriously wounded, his face scarred, his fiancée Katherine recommends he grow a moustache to hide his deeply marred face.  The engagement, for unknown reasons, is broken off by Poirot.

Fast-forward a number of years to a Gilded-Age ship and the  Belgian sleuth is traveling down the Nile, looking out at the Giza pyramids, while ridiculously privileged passengers are celebrating the honeymoon of wealthy heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot of “Wonder Woman”) and her penniless husband, Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer of “Call Me By Your Name”).  [Simon has callously broken off his engagement to Jackie de Bellefort (Emma Mackey of “Barbie”) six weeks before marrying Linnet.]

We soon learn that Simon has invited only guests who have held grudges against his bride, some for many years.  Why Poirot should be invited as a guest is only revealed midway through Death on the River Nile.   What follows is an interminably long list of characters who are difficult to track and even more difficult to remember their backstories and motivations for committing a series of heinous murders.

For fans of Masterpiece Theater mysteries, the old-fashioned style of Death on the Nile will entertain, and the star-studded cast including Annette Bening, Sophie Okonedo, Armie Hammer, Russell Brand, and Rose Leslie add performances worth watching.  Truly interesting narratives or characters aren’t found, however, and the clues and red herrings pile up in the last quarter of the film, after a saggy middle too overloaded with party scenes and wasteful and decadent consumption. Branagh as Poirot manages to hold our attention, and in his sixties, is still going strong as an actor to watch.  He relishes bringing vulnerability to the Belgian sleuth character, metaphorically as emotionally scarred as his face.  This may be one of his more memorable roles in his idiosyncratic interpretation of Hercule Poirot. We see him   moving forward., at a late stage in his career, to add yet another iconic role to his credits.

While Death on the Nile is no white-knuckle, heart-pounding mystery thriller, no lifesaver needed on the transoceanic voyage, it will satisfy both Agatha Christie and Kenneth Branagh fans.

Availability: Amazon Prime

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