Even when facing certain death in the trenches of the Somme, a young Hercule Poirot knows which way the wind is blowing. So, when later he is invited on a river cruise by Gal Godot’s heiress and her ne’er-do-well fiancé as played by Armie Hammer, you can already see his little grey cells working away.
Pursued by Hammer’s jilted fiancé as played by Emma Mackey, the couple fear for their lives and have enshrouded themselves in a travelling repertory of family and friends. However, just how smart a choice this is will be revealed in the currents of the Nile…
Poirot now gets a decent backstory to go with the usual diet of death and deceit....
So, like director Kenneth Branagh’s earlier Murder on the Orient Express, his Death on the Nile once again attacks the Agatha Christie lore. Deliberately looking for ways to add intrigue rather than doing a shot-for-shot remake that rehashes the 1978 original, Poirot now gets a decent backstory to go with the usual diet of death and deceit.
However, as Poirot points out, love isn’t a game played fair and inviting a dodgy crew of hangers-on and family types down the Nile certainly seems to tip the odds in fate’s favour. Then again, by this point in the Agatha Christie catalogue, you really should know what to expect.
Like the 1978 original and Branagh’s 2017 Murder on the Orient Express, the main attraction here is the production design and assembled starry cast. Leading the acting stakes is Sophie Okonedo. She clearly has that swing as a bluesy southern songstress but the real surprise for me was ecowarrior-turned-thespian Rusell Brand as a spurned doctor. With all clipped sentences and pent-up frustration, he really dives into the part he’s been given. Although, the real queen of the Nile is Annette Bening. Channelling the measured bile of Maggie Smith with the tones of an acidly drip-dry Frances De La Tour, she owns the English accent stakes in this movie. In fact, her performance is so good it’s almost as if she’s in another film as every one of her snarls lifts up the sentence it finds itself on.
So, in what amounts to just over two hours of rich and privileged folk psychologically torturing each other, if there’s a heavy debt to be paid then it is to the plot. Again, like Branagh’s 2017 Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie’s well-trodden beats are something of an anchor to be dragged along rather than lifted up. With all of its locations, sets and sumptuous wardrobe all pulling at the hem of this well-worn storyline, Death on the Nile is still a pretty distraction for a Sunday evening.
Sure, some of the grand dames’ purists might be foaming at the mouth at the final scene but this is a reimagining with little or no concerns to give about the 1978 version – and it’s all the better for it. As a travelogue movie that has brought a closet full of skeletons on holiday, there’s plenty of murder afoot than on dry land.
So, step onboard. Everyone has a motive and everyone has an alibi and if you’ve got two hours to spare you could do a lot worse than watch Kenneth Branagh flex his moustache.0