Death on the Nile wants to distract you with its detailed production design, but it’s not enough to compensate for its dull characters and plodding whodunit.
Hercule Poirot is soaking up the sights of the great pyramid until he spots a kite being flown on its steps. Insulted, he shouts at the kite flyer to stop and realizes it’s his friend Bouc (Tom Bateman). He invites the famous detective to a wedding party hosted by Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) and Linette Ridgeway Doyle (Gal Gadot), a newly married couple on their honeymoon.
“Ahhh love, it is not safe,” says Poirot as the couple makes an entrance. Six weeks ago, he witnessed Jackie Bellefort introduce her then-fiancé Simon to her friend Linette.
Linette’s friends and relatives join the Doyles: former fiancé Linus Windlesham (Russell Brand), godmother Marie Van Schuyler (Jennifer Saunders) and her nurse Mrs. Bowers (Dawn French), cousin and trustee Andrew Katchadourian (Ali Fazal), personal maid Louise Bourget (Rose Leslie), and college classmate Rosalie Otterbourne (Letitia Wright) the niece and manager of Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo).
In the middle of the celebration, Jackie makes an appearance. The scorned lover followed the couple relentlessly. They ask for the help of Poirot, but he refuses, reasoning that there is no case to be solved.
The couple decides to go on a cruise on the Nile to avoid Jackie, taking everybody and Poirot with them. Linette still doesn’t feel safe. Jackie isn’t the only one who stands to benefit from the death of an heiress.
The death on the Nile comes eventually, but it’s a long way to get there, and once it does, there’s nothing to appreciate except the high production value.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The movie opens with the backstory of Poirot and the origin of his mustache. It’s beautiful, shot in 65mm black and white, but unnecessary. Kenneth Branagh can’t understand that this movie is supposed to be about the mystery, not that character arc of some celibate mustache-twirling detective with ADHD.
Eventually, we get to the love triangle. The movie spends its first half with Simon and Linette. Unfortunately, Gadot and Hammer have no chemistry. The former has heaps of charisma that’s barely watchable with wooden acting. The latter is devoid of charisma and overshadowed by his scandal.
The remaining performances are a mixed bag with bad accents, but the actors can’t precisely be blamed because of the script. Mackey and Benning stand out. Okonedo needs to have her movie. The reunion of Saunders and French was wasted.
The characters are a line-up of cardboard cutouts because the movie spends most of its time showcasing its artificial backdrop, set design, and costumes. The reason why we should care about this messy couple whose surrounded by vultures and jilted lovers is unclear. Their suspicious motives aren’t convincing either.
So when someone dies, there is no one to care. There are some twists and turns as the movie hurtles towards the end, but there are also no sparks nor mystery for the revelation to have an impact.
Death on the Nile wants to tell us that it is a bittersweet tragedy about love. Love makes us do crazy irrational things, but it can also rekindle the passion in a broken heart.
But as this two-hour movie reaches its epilogue, we circle back to Poirot. We’re reminded that this is another vanity project like Murder on the Orient Express, just longer.
Death On The Nile
Death on the Nile is a glossy spectacle, if you can sit through its plodding whodunit, dull characters, and bland romance.