Movie Review: Death on the Nile

Nile river
Photo by drwdowin from Pixabay.

Note: This article contains spoilers for “Death on the Nile” (2022).

The classic murder mystery story by Agatha Christie was brought to life by director Kenneth Branagh, who also plays Hercule Poirot, in this stunning revival of “Death on the Nile.” The story follows the Belgian detective, Monsieur Poirot, as he is brought by his old friend, Bouc (Tom Bateman), to tag along to the wedding party of Simmon Doyle (Armie Hammer) and Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot). While this is occurring, the couple is being trailed by the scorched ex-lover, Jacqueline De Bellefort (Emma Mackey). Many other characters that are a part of the party come into play, who each have their own bone to pick with Ridgeway, assembling the rest of the all-star cast as they follow the honeymoon through Egypt. 

While it was a slow build to the murder, it did not feel like it. Starting with a black-and-white prelude of Poirot’s backstory and love story, the introduction set up the common theme of troubled love throughout the film. While this theme does become, in my opinion, cheesy, it does add another level of complexity to the plot by adding the personal anecdote. I will say that in this adaptation of “Death on the Nile,” many creative liberties were taken. The film then jumps to introducing the love triangle between Ridgeway, Bellefort and Doyle. These first interactions captivate the audience in the sensual choreography, beautiful wardrobe and subtle acting. The dance floor is covered with people dancing to the soulful blues of singer Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo), who later is in the party along with her niece, Rosalie Otterbourne (Letitia Wright). Salome will go on to serenade other scenes of the movie. Ridgeway is adorned in a shimmering dress and surrounded by cameras that capture her wealth and grace. For Bellefort, she is dressed in a red gown, which is not the last time the audience will see her in red as it captures her passion which later develops into rage. Finally, the acting in this scene perfectly sets up the emotional drama for the film and lets the audience see Branagh’s portrayal of Poirot. This is not his first time playing and directing Poirot, as he did the same in “Murder on the Orient Express.” While in my opinion, the best on-screen portrayal of the beloved detective will always be by David Suchet, Branagh did a great job of capturing the meticulousness of Poirot, but in a scruffier manner.  

As the rest of the characters are introduced in Egypt, it displays the stunning scenery of the desert land. I enjoyed the warm-toned color palette used, although very stereotypical for films taking place in Egypt. Something that was pretty, but redundant were the establishing shots of the boat and its surroundings. While I enjoyed getting to see the scenery and crocodiles, the repeated gaze around the boat felt like it was trying to fill space, especially when it was far into the movie and the boat wasn’t changing locations. On a different note, I liked how in flashbacks the color scheme was shifted to black and white, which in one scene was used to show a key object in a striking red. Overall, the cinematography in the movie was not outstanding, except for a couple of scenes that you could tell were trying to be something, but it matched nicely with the directions and script. 

The script carried nicely throughout the film with some quick wit from Poirot which aroused some laughter from me, but it did have its cringey moments. The references to Cleopatra in a school play at first were interesting but then felt constant. The scene that really overdid it for me was when the newlyweds were bringing their friends onto the boat that would take them down the Nile. For this, Ridgeway is in an outfit and standing on a tower as Cleopatra, reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor’s parade look from “Cleopatra,” reciting lines from her script in the school play. This felt out of place since Bellefort wasn’t even there and they originally were saying they were in a rush to leave without Bellefort noticing. While this could be a display of her power, it was just bizarre and felt like overkill, as if they assumed the audience wouldn’t be able to pick up on the tension and power dynamic. Another scene I did not enjoy was the final confrontation. For starters, it felt very staged, and while Poirot is a very detailed detective, it felt overplayed. Furthermore, it felt out of character for Poirot to be confronting in such an emotionally-charged manner. Despite these scenes, the film was not always so awkward. A scene I really enjoyed was when Bellefort and Doyle were fighting. The script is very melodramatic and here it felt most fitting and eye-catching. 

The 2022 adaptation of Christie’s novel was not the first. When compared to the 1978 version, it makes the new film seem amazing. Compared to the colonialism-supremacy racism, boring slow-moving script and Peter Ustinov’s horrible performance of Poirot, the new adaptation instead shows how the diversity in casting, dramatic whirlwind script and good acting makes Branagh’s “Death on the Nile” a fine adaptation. While those who are fans of the book may be disappointed by the changes and the ending, I would say the 2022 adaptation is a good movie to see, but not a movie worth seeing again.