[For big new releases, I’m going to start posting reviews as soon as I see them, rather than waiting for the end of the month round up.]
I described Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express as like curling up with a good book, beautiful to look at, great actors and a surprising amount of humour. Unfortunately I cannot say any of the same about Death on the Nile.
I spent a good chunk of the film wondering if it was supposed to be a spoof, but I’m afraid I think it was just a bit poor – hammy acting, suspect accents, very little chemistry, a script lacking in any subtlety and although there were many beautiful;y designed and shot scenes, there was also some utterly terrible blue screening (particularly the early scenes on the pyramids) which really let it down.
The plot is solid, thanks to Agatha Christie, and any jiggling about of characters has been well managed. I knew the explanation from the outset and that didn’t spoil anything, but did highlight a couple of, not holes as such, but stretches of credulity. I do feel that the backstory for Poirot is completely unnecessary and there’s not really enough of it to really make a difference, so why bother (in fact that would have cut 10 mins from the bloated run time). Although Kenneth Branagh’s performance is easily the best thing in the film (costumes being the runner up) and he at least manages to get the right level of self awareness, ridiculousness and credibility.
There’s an interesting article on the New York Post about how this film is a publicists nightmare. It was greenlit in 2017, started filming in 2019, cost $160m, had multiple moves of release dates and since all then half the cast find themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. So there’s been very little publicity for it, which doesn’t explain the poor quality, but maybe some of the final edit polish was lost too?
It’s not a terrible film, but it seems to think more itself than it should. It’s cheesy without the fun, like a melodramatic TV soap opera with a blockbuster budget. It’s cheesy but not enough fun, and trying to fake a depth it doesn’t deliver. It’s not a wasted cinema trip because it looks pretty on the big screen at least, but I would definitely recommend seeking out the 1978 version with a stunning cast including Peter Ustinov, Mia Farrow, David Niven, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, and Maggie Smith.