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Death on the Nile
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Kenneth Branagh
scr Michael Green
prd Ridley Scott, Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund,Kevin J Walsh
with Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, Annette Bening, Armie Hammer, Tom Bateman, Letitia Wright, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Rose Leslie, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders
release US/UK 11Feb.22
22/UK 20th Century 2h07
Is it streaming?
Kenneth Branagh and his oversized moustache are back for another Agatha Christie mystery thriller. This whodunit is less involving, but the sets and costumes are lavish, and locations are bright and sunny, even if they're often rendered digitally. The problem is that the writers never make much of the characters, leaving the ace ensemble cast with little to do but drop clues and clunky plot exposition into each conversation.
In a 1937 London jazz den, Poirot (Branagh) carefully observes a messy romantic triangle involving the overly physical Simon (Hammer) and his fiancee Jackie (Mackey), who asks him to dance with her best friend Linnet (Gadot). Six weeks later, Simon and Linnet are celebrating their marriage in Cairo with various friends and relatives, including Poirot, when Jackie turns up vowing revenge. To escape from her, everyone boards a lavish paddleboat steaming up the Nile, and one night in Luxor someone is murdered. Quickly, Poirot is on the case, finding that everyone on-board has a motive.
Suspects include Linnet's godmother (Saunders), a nurse companion (French), businessman cousin (Fazal), bewildered maid (Leslie) and shifty doctor (Brand). And then there's Poirot's old friend Bouc (Bateman), whose tetchy mother (Bening) disapproves of his romance with Rosalie (Wright), assistant to her jazz musician Aunt Salome (Okonedo). In shooting their interaction, Branagh's cameras use awkward close-ups that are edited in a way that makes us wonder if the actors were ever actually in Egypt, or indeed a room together.
Because of a prologue in black-and-white wartime 1914 Belgium, Branagh adds some back-story to Poirot, making him the only remotely layered character. By contrast, characters played by Gadot, Hammer, Wright and Mackey are so superficial that their connections never ring true. Bateman is the only likeable person on the boat, Okonedo provides some needed spark, and Bening and an unusually pofaced Brand play with some scene-stealing moments. But it's a shame that the talents of French and Saunders are so thoroughly wasted.
The film has the same lavish Hollywood sheen as Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express, but the story and characters are more difficult to engage with, only finding the odd moments of enjoyable campness. And there's a bigger problem in the mystery narrative itself, which lacks even a whiff of momentum or urgency. As bodies begin to pile up, there are only vague tinges of emotion before the next carefully positioned clue drops. And each attempt to deepen things is corny rather than convincing.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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