Death on the Nile Review: A Superb Adaptation of Agatha Christie's Classic Murder Mystery

Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) accompanies an heiress (Gal Gadot) on a tragic honeymoon cruise in Death on the Nile.
Kenneth Branagh leads an all-star cast in a triumphant second outing as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. Death on the Nile has the famed Belgian sleuth investigating a series of salacious murders in Egypt. Adapted from Christie’s 1937 novel, the film follows the events of Murder on the Orient Express with several characters returning. Death on the Nile has a lavish production design and sharp direction from Branagh; who continues to excel in front and behind the camera. The killer isn’t that difficult to sniff out, but the film never loses tension with crisp pacing and solid character development.
Death on the Nile begins with an extraordinary flashback sequence that defines Hercule Poirot’s (Branagh) life trajectory. Decades later in London, the renowned detective visits a swinging jazz club to enjoy the music and indulge in decadent desserts. He’s entranced by the sultry vocals of Salome Otterborne (Sophie Okonedo), but notices another glamorous woman stealing the spotlight. The stunning heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) congratulates her best friend, Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey), on her engagement to the handsome Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer).
A few weeks later, Poirot has taken a much-needed vacation to visit the Egyptian pyramids. He’s surprised to run into Bouc (Tom Bateman) and his mother, the snobby Euphemia (Annette Bening). They are celebrating Linnet Ridgeway’s wedding, drum roll please, to Simon Doyle. Poirot is astonished by this turn of events. Even more intriguing, an angry and betrayed Jacqueline de Bellefort has followed the newlyweds from England. She confronts and threatens them at every turn. A worried Linnet asks Poirot to accompany the wedding entourage on their luxury cruise of the Nile. He keenly observes that the couple is surrounded by duplicitous sycophants.
Death on the Nile looks incredible to the smallest detail. Kenneth Branagh, his trusted production designer Jim Clay (Children of Men, Artemis Fowl), and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos (Thor, Cinderella) are in peak artistic form. Both men have worked for Branagh on multiple films and will probably garner Oscar nominations for his latest turn in Belfast. A cold, foggy London is juxtaposed by the scorching desert and fatal developments on the vibrant river. Every frame of Death on the Nile immerses you in a sumptuous world of deceit and treachery.
The body count is significantly higher than Murder on the Orient Express. Poirot navigates murky waters to deduce truth from lies. The large supporting cast engages in subterfuge while pursuing their own agendas. There’s a lot going on here, but the primary storyline isn’t that far-fetched. Older audiences will be familiar with the plot from the classic novel and previous versions. Younger viewers, put on your thinking caps, read the clues and solve the mystery. Agatha Christie always lays breadcrumbs to the villains. Death on the Nile inserts a racial component to incorporate a diverse cast, but the original resolution remains true.
Death on the Nile had me hooked from the start. It’s an engaging mystery with good performances and superb production values. I sincerely hope that the tabloid nonsense in Armie Hammer’s personal life doesn’t dissuade anyone from seeing the film. He fits in well with the ensemble players. Death on the Nile is produced by TSG Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, Simon Kinberg, and Mark Gordon Pictures. It will be released theatrically on February 11th from 20th Century Studios.
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