Death on the Nile (2022) | Film Review
The most dazzling murder mystery
by Maximilian Merkel
photo courtesy of IMDb
Kenneth Branagh and his version of Agatha Christie’s brilliant detective, Hercule Poirot, are finally back on screen. Branagh is portraying once more the infamous, ingenious sleuth, this time in his 2022 adaptation of Christie’s murder mystery novel Death on the Nile.
The film is set in 1930s Egypt and showcases the outdated, yet much-desired glamour one might recognise from classics like The Great Gatsby. Colourful sunsets, deep blue waters, cloudless skies, and mighty historical monuments set the stage for the seemingly perfect luxury of expensive champagne, perfect cocktails, and sublime etiquette. Even though one cannot help but notice that the CGI at work sometimes tends to make the sunsets a bit too colourful, the sky a bit too blue, and the riparian palm trees just a tad too green, this does not at all interfere with the sheer Gatsby-feel of many of the film’s impressive shots, on the contrary.
After starting off with a surprisingly grave black and white WWI sequence uncovering the origin story of Poirot’s remarkable moustache, the film lays the groundwork for its setting and the most obvious point of conflict in its plot.
We find Poirot in London, enjoying a rare break from solving cases where he happens to stumble upon Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) meeting her good friend, Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey) and her fiancé, Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer), celebrating their engagement. As Poirot enjoys his evening out, he does not yet realize that very soon, this seemingly happy engagement would be getting quite the shakeup in the way of murder.
While it is hard to watch Armie Hammer as the loved-up Simon Doyle, the more the film progresses, the less it tends to focus on him, enabling some of the other actors to shine in their roles. Sophie Okonedo, as jazz singer Salome Otterbourne, is one of the outstanding pieces of this film. She radiates sublimity and the impressive indomitability of a successful and inspiringly charismatic Black woman in the 1930s. Her quick-witted daughter Rosalie, played by Letitia Wright, shines as the younger version of her mother and fights her own battle of love throughout the film. The other spotlight of the film was the somewhat unrecognisable Russell Brand as Dr. Windlesham, who is, different than what Brand is known for, a calm and almost pleasantly normal man in this group of mostly whimsical characters. A further special mention must be the music. Established film composer Patrick Doyle delivers a perfectly matching soundtrack for the film's stunning pictures. A grand and mighty, yet gentle piece of orchestral composition that matches perfectly with Salome Otterbourne’s soulful, enchanting Jazz and Blues performances throughout the story.
A film full of dazzling glamour, passionate love, breath-taking landscapes, and hidden murder motives that certainly do a marvellous job of distracting from the fact that without the shiny and undoubtedly impressive exterior, the plot and few of the characters seem to lack some profoundness at best and creativity at worst.
A small drawback is the length, too. Despite its pretty scenes and impressive showcasing of enviable wealth, the film spends far too long getting to the actual mystery afoot. There are so many precious moments that could have been used to focus on the motives and development of the ensemble characters but were wasted on the build-up to the actual journey. One must wonder if this was done purposely, because of the events surrounding Armie Hammer, but we might never know. Nonetheless, Branagh, once again, created a precious film, that makes the viewer watch in awe what secrets and impossibly hidden clues the adorably pedantic Hercule Poirot discovers and assembles to get to the bottom of things. This is well worth a watch.
You can watch Death on the Nile and other fantastic titles at the Belmont Filmhouse. Student & Young Person memberships are free and grant you access to all regular screenings at 5£, as well as a weekly exclusive screening on Tuesdays at 2£. For more information, go to Membership | Belmont Filmhouse.