Death on the Nile is the second in a line of films for the modern adaptations of the beloved Agatha Christie novels. Following in the footsteps of Murder on the Orient Express, this film returns Kenneth Branagh as director and main character Hercule Poirot and Tom Bateman as Bouc from the previous film. As far as everyone else is concerned, it’s a whole new ball game when it comes to cast and murder mystery.
As far as murder mysteries go, Agatha Christie is one of the big names in the game. I grew up on her novels, and Death on the Nile is one I can remember my mom reading out loud to me growing up. So it’s with great pleasure I can say without a doubt I absolutely enjoyed this adaptation of such a great book. We dive more into the history of Detective Poirot, and his relationships with those around him. To say the quality of storytelling has improved for this iteration is impressive, to say the least. There are more stakes, and Poirot’s personality and conversational style are more abrupt. However, the way the film juggles these elements is effortless.
Michael Green’s script flows a lot better this time around. The adaptation, while more loose compared to previous ones, works within the confines of the movie. This time around includes a similar all-star cast in Gal Gadot, Russell Brand, Armie Hammer, Emma Mackey, and Letitia Wright. Everyone does their part to kill their roles. Wright in particular as Rosalie gives a great performance, with emotion clicking on all cylinders. The star cast member however is Mackey, who plays a delectable character. She has the audience gripped the whole film. Overall, the full cast brings enough steam to help the tension thrive.
There’s a recipe for great murder mysteries, and there’s just one ingredient needed: tension. Tension, however, is built off of a great plot, with great characters, good cinematography, and directing. Death on the Nile capitalizes on them all. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos manages to draw all the attention precisely where it’s necessary. Green’s script gives enough detail to give you clues along the way while providing enough misdirection to keep you guessing. It’s a worthwhile endeavor to follow along and will make for a good several watches to see if you can catch all the clues dropped.
Detective Poirot feels more humane this go around. He’s still aloof, but with Bouc returning, there’s a levity to his character. Bouc has been his friend all along. Now that they’ve solved a case together it feels like they can conquer the world. Poirot opens up, he’s left vulnerable with some of the comments he makes to everyone on board the S.S. Karnak. The end of the film brings everything together and leaves you wondering where will the detective go next.
As far as Branagh goes for directing, it feels more cohesive than some of his other films. He clearly has a great love for the Agatha Christie novels, and has talked about building out his adaptations into a cinematic universe. Thankfully he hasn’t put the cart before the horse like some other book-to-movie adaptations, and he’s grounded the universe in strong characters. There’s still some weird direction on certain scenes like the “enough champagne to fill the Nile!”, but it doesn’t cause the core material to lose the audience.
Overall, this film really takes the cake. Terrific book-to-film adaptations are hard to come by, and Death on the Nile has written the book on how to do it. From cast to tension, and beyond, there’s not one part that really had me shaking my head in confusion. Every film has a little bit of weird, but it’s all nitpicking. I can only hope Disney and Branagh can come to an agreement to continue making these movies. Wright gives one of her best performances so far, and Mackey… Someone needs to get her in some of the biggest roles in Hollywood because she is phenomenal.
Death on the Nile has been haunted by public relations nightmares in its constant search for a release date, but that doesn’t mean you should let this one slip you by. A well-paced murder mystery is the cream of the crop, and Death on the Nile shines at the top. – Katie Rentschler
Death on the Nile is currently in theaters everywhere.