Another Kenneth Branagh star vehicle directed by the man himself, although one may believe it is an alien mustache that latches on his face and takes over control. Fans of Murder on the Orient Express (2017) can rejoice as this film brings more of the Agatha Christie-famed detective, Hercule Poirot. The ham in the river Nile is vast, as is the amount of Champagne on the yacht that the social elite plan to imbibe in this cinema caper.
Poirot (Branagh) is vacationing as he finds himself sucked into helping protect Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) and her new husband, Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer), from his ex-fiance, Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey), who keeps showing up everywhere they go. Thus, the rich couple decides to move their honeymoon celebration to a yacht, along with their many guests and the detective himself, only to find that you can’t escape the hostility of those who believe you’ve wronged them.
Self-indulgent only begins to describe these films. Branagh is having fun and assumes the audience is on the same page as he. If you are, you’ll probably enjoy this experience far more than those scratching their heads trying to decipher whether this film is supposed to be a serious crime story or a campy mystery. The tone is much harder to solve than the mystery at the heart of this film, which felt extremely telegraphed by some of the opening scenes. Clearly, the audience wanted more backstory on the detective – especially to explain why a man would have such a well-groomed mustache. I know that when Murder on the Orient Express ended, that was the only question I had bouncing around in my head.
What hurts these two Branagh films is that Knives Out exists. It is a far superior example of how to do a movie like this, and Rian Johnson’s balancing of the comedic and crime elements just works so much better. It is impossible not to compare the two, as they both comprise a largely talented ensemble with a quirky lead performance centered on the impossibly talented detective. It could be argued that Daniel Craig is a better actor than Branagh – or, at the very least, maybe one who doesn’t think quite as highly of himself. It could also be that Johnson can reign in the performances, where Branagh chooses to go bigger and have some pretty silly dialogue. Then, it is also likely, that because Knives Out is an original property, it is easier to make it for the screen than the Agatha Christie novel, which – from my understanding – can’t be altered in any major ways.
Ultimately, Death on the Nile is found. It’s not bad, but it’s not super compelling. The movie isn’t helped by the real-world drama surrounding Armie Hammer that makes two of his scenes feel extra gross. The set pieces are pretty, and often at a disservice to the story, as there is more set-up to those that make the events happening in them seem so unrealistic. Death of the Nile earns a Decent Watch rating.