“When You Have Money, Nobody is Ever Really Your Friend.”
Overall, I enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s take on Murder on the Orient Express a few years back, so I was looking forward to watching Death on the Nile. I even listened to the unabridged audio of the book a few years ago so I’d be ready when the movie came out. So when the movie was delayed, I was disappointed. Then I heard some mixed reviews of the movie. But when I sat down to watch it, I found myself enjoying it.
After an extended prologue designed to give us a bit of background on Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), we get into the meat of this story. Poirot just happens to be at a club where he is able to witness the interactions of heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot), her friend, Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey), and Jacqueline’s new fiancé, Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer). But it’s six weeks later when the story really picks up.
At that point, Poirot just happens to bump into a wedding party taking an extended trip to Egypt. The bride and groom? Linnet and Simon. Among the party are various family members and friends, including one of Linnet’s ex. But Jacqueline is following the group, and that is making Linnet feel very uncomfortable.
When Linnet asks Poirot to join the party to keep anything from happening, he reluctantly agrees. And it does appear that someone sinister is afoot. Will he be able to stop it?
Let’s start with the prologue. I get what they were going for – trying to round out Poirot, something that I haven’t seen in the limited Christie books I’ve read. (Okay, fine, I’ve only read two). But I don’t feel like this was the way to do it. Honestly, this forced tragic love backstory they are giving him just doesn’t work overall for me. And I really do get what they were trying to do with the ending. Well, I think I do, but again, it was unnecessary and really didn’t work.
It's a shame they went with the backstory to start out this movie in particular because it is a slow burn story anyway with lots of set up. All of it comes into play in the back half, but you are ready for the first murder to happen before it does. That’s a flaw with the source material, and it’s hard to give us the background we need to understand the plot without doing that.
The movie also tried to tighten things by combining a few characters and changing their relationships. That means some of the plot points from the book get changed here, although the overall story remains the same. And I do wish the book were fresher in my mind to remember how they changed things because I am really curious.
Some of the changes made to the screen play also allowed them to get some preaching in. I’m not saying the script was wrong either historically or ethically, but it felt forced, probably because I knew it wasn’t there to begin with.
I read quite a bit about the production values. Yes, there are times you can tell the actors are on a stage when they are supposed to be in Egypt. The worst of those was a scene that could have been cut out anyway since it was very awkward and cringe worthy even without the obvious fake backdrop. But there are a lot of beautiful shots as well, and I enjoyed what we got to see.
I didn’t recognize as many of the cast members in this movie as I did in Murder on the Orient Express. But that wasn’t a problem since I felt the entire cast did a great job. Kenneth Branagh pulled back his performance as Poirot a bit here, and it blended better with the rest of the cast. He also changed up Poirot’s mustache, and it was much, much less distracting.
I know I’ve been picking apart the movie, and this is definitely one where it is easy to spot the flaws. There is much to enjoy. As I said, the performances are good. The mystery is twisty and surprising. Watching it if you know what is happening, you can marvel at how Agatha Christie constructed it originally. There are many truly beautiful shots.
Overall, I really did enjoy Death on the Nile. Since it’s the only version I’ve seen, I can’t compare it to any others, but it makes for a good couple hours of viewing.