Death on the Nile review – Branagh’s Poirot and co are all show | Movies


Having tussled rather inelegantly with the work of Agatha Christie once before, with 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh again sports the improbable moustache and gloopy camembert accent of her detective Hercule Poirot. In the long-delayed Death on the Nile (the second version of the book, following the Peter Ustinov-starring 1978 outing), the moustache gets its own pre-credits origin story, which is considerably more background detail than most of the other characters are afforded.

In this heavily CGI-augmented and opulently styled north African odyssey, Poirot finds himself tagging along on the honeymoon of the fabulously wealthy Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) and her new husband, Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer). Others accompanying the happy couple include Linnet’s cantankerous champagne socialist godmother, the bride’s sour-faced former fiance, a feckless toff and his overbearing mother, and a celebrated jazz singer and her niece (the starry cast includes Annette Bening, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders and Russell Brand). In addition, Simon’s jealousy-crazed ex-lover (Emma Mackey) is an uninvited but unshakable spectre at the celebrations.

The sheer weirdness of this setup is Christie’s, but the film does little to assuage the dysfunctionality of the guest list. It does, however, go some way to explaining why the increasingly frazzled Linnet knocks herself out with sleeping tablets every night.

As a piece of film-making, it’s demonstrative and showy, all flowing champagne, mirthless, tinkling laughter and sexless, grimly gymnastic grappling on the dancefloor. The camera whirls giddily, dizzy from the sparkle and spectacle, but not quite able to conceal the fact that this is an empty bauble of a movie.

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