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Death on the Nile 2022 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
Long coronavirally delayed, Kenneth Branagh’s latest Agatha Christie movie puffs effortfully into harbour. It’s the classic whodunnit about a murder on a steamer making its way down the river in Egypt with an Anglo-American boatful of waxy-faced cameos aboard. The horrible homicide means that one of the passengers will have to spring into action, and this is of course the amply moustached Hercule Poirot, played by Branagh himself. It is Poirot who interviews suspects, supervises corpse-storage in the ship’s galley freezer cabinet and delivers the final unmasking – and all without the captain insisting that the Egyptian police should possibly get involved.
Screenwriter Michael Green has adapted the 1937 novel with some new inventions: some people of colour are introduced, and Christie’s intense dislike for her wealthy-hypocrite leftwing character has been dialled down. Most startlingly, Green invents a very good prelude showing the young Poirot’s service in the trenches of the first world war, and the origin of that moustache. Nothing in the rest of this rather stale and two-dimensional tale matches the brio of that opening.
Among the passengers, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders play lady’s-companion Mrs Bowers and her wealthy socialite-turned-socialist employer Marie Van Schuyler, and the presence of this venerable comedy duo makes the movie look weirdly like a laugh-free version of the spoof they might have created for their erstwhile TV show. Russell Brand keeps his comedy stylings under wraps as the deadpan Dr Linus Windlesham. Sophie Okonedo and Letitia Wright play jazz singer Salome Otterbourne and her manager-slash-niece Rosalie, who is also a boarding school pal of glamorous heiress Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle, played by Gal Gadot, who is on the cruise with her new husband Simon – unfortunately played by Armie Hammer in what may be the last movie role of his career. Emma Mackey is Simon’s jealous former fiancee Jacqueline, Ali Fazal is Linnet’s lawyer and cousin. Rose Leslie is a regulation pinch-faced lady’s maid and Tom Bateman returns as Poirot’s cheery helpmeet Bouc (last seen on the Orient Express). He is here with his intimidating mother Euphemia, played by Annette Bening.
After one of these people is offed, the clockwork grinds into action, bringing up in due course more dead bodies like the ship’s paddlewheel, but there is no sense of crescendo and climax. Branagh brings something spirited and good-humoured to the role of Poirot, but the film’s attempt to create some romantic stirrings to go with the activities of those little grey cells is not very convincing. He’s incidentally supposed to have been a would-be farmer in his extreme youth – whereas screenwriter Sarah Phelps, in her adaptation of The ABC Murders for BBC TV, more interestingly made Poirot a former priest.
But this film may well be sufficiently successful to justify another Branagh/Poirot outing: I suggest Christie’s postmodern masterpiece The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.