Film review: Death on the Nile
Kenneth Branagh reprises his role as Poirot in this starry but unsatisfying Agatha Christie adaptation
Kenneth Branagh’s “long coronavirally delayed” Agatha Christie adaptation has finally “puffed effortfully into harbour”, said Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. Branagh reprises his role as the “amply moustached” Poirot, last seen on the Orient Express, and now steaming his way down the Nile. Among his fellow passengers are Linnet (Gal Gadot), a “glamorous heiress” travelling with her new husband Simon, “unfortunately played” by the scandal-struck Armie Hammer, in what may be his last movie role; Sophie Okonedo as a jazz singer and Letitia Wright as her manager; and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, playing a rich socialist and her lady’s maid. After one of these travellers is offed, the murder mystery “grinds into action, bringing up in due course more dead bodies like the ship’s paddle wheel” – but with no sense of crescendo or climax.
The real mystery here, said Charlotte O’Sullivan in the London Evening Standard, is why Branagh strayed so far from the source text, to such sentimental effect. Poirot here isn’t the “persnickety” detective we know and love, but a man “scarred in every sense” by his experiences in the First World War. He cries; he falls in love. “This is the Belgian detective as we’ve never seen him before. And, frankly, as I have no wish to see him again.”
The question that occurred to me, said Brian Viner in the Daily Mail, isn’t “whodunnit, but why make it?” You may be “mildly engaged” as Poirot exercises the “little grey cells”. Ultimately, though, this handsome film is unlikely to delight anybody except the Egyptian Tourist Board – “at least not until it eventually pops up in the Christmas TV schedules, when it will be just perfect for a post-prandial snooze”.