Enough blood and champagne to fill Death on the Nile

"He accuses everyone of murder": does Kenneth Branagh's second Hercule Poirot mystery live up to the book?

ashna mathur
21st February 2022
Image credit: IMDB

*Content warning: brief mention of sexual assault and cannibalism*

Actor-director Kenneth Branagh returns with another Agatha Christie whodunnit as a sequel to his Murder on the Orient Express (2017). After several postponements due to the pandemic, Death on the Nile was finally released on 11 February 2022. 

The film captures the luxuries of vacationing on the S. S. Karnak steamer, with the well-dressed ensemble cast dancing amidst countless balloons and drinking “enough champagne to fill the Nile.”  

The infamous Belgian detective is an intriguing character- his frustrating obsession with symmetry doesn’t allow him to have an odd number of desserts on his table, and Branagh delivers a stellar performance as Poirot, capturing his essential wits and quirks. We also see the addition of Poirot’s backstory as a farmer fighting in the trenches of World War I, and tracing the existence of his iconic moustache. The inclusion of young Poirot’s black and white segment may just be the highlight of this film, and it was also refreshing to see Poirot show some vulnerability. 

Gadot has little chemistry with Armie Hammer's Simon Doyle. Image credit: IMDB

After this prelude, Death on the Nile is off to a slow start, with the first murder taking place well into the film - but then the bodies start to pile up in the ham freezer. The thriller picks up its pace, and everyone’s a suspect. 

Gal Gadot plays the rich celebrity Linnet Ridgeway, later Mrs Doyle who is married to Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer). Unfortunately, the two A-list stars have no chemistry, and they both deliver stiff performances. Hammer is unconvincing as the charming Simon, and his not-so-recent controversy makes it hard to enjoy his presence on-screen. Although the movie was shot before his rape allegations and cannibalism scandal took place, its refusal to address and take any concrete steps towards these issues left a sour taste in my mouth. 

Central to the plot is Simon’s ex-fiancée and Linnet’s close friend Jacqueline De Bellefort, played by Emma Mackey (Sex Education). Mackey does a good job of portraying the jealous and vengeful Jackie. Another performance I particularly enjoyed was that of Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey; Game of Thrones) as Louise Bourget, Linnet’s maid. She captures the essence of a polite maid who is unfairly treated by her socialite employer. 

There is a hint of LGBTQ+ representation, something I appreciate but would have liked to see explored further

The film also features some diversity within the cast, including Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) as Salome Ottorbourne, Letitia Wright as Salome’s niece Rosalie and Bollywood actor Ali Fazal as Linnet’s cousin and lawyer Andrew Katchadourian - all of whom outshine the performances by Mr and Mrs Doyle. Russell Brand is almost unrecognisable as Linnet’s ex-fiancé, the reserved Dr Windlesham, and Tom Bateman (Da Vinci’s Demons) is entertaining to watch as Poirot’s friend Bouc. 

There is a hint of LGBTQ+ representation, something I appreciate but would have liked to see explored further - and it is enough to make Agatha Christie roll in her grave. 

The big reveal towards the end is my favourite part of any Poirot novel, as it was for this movie. Death on the Nile is glamourous and tense at the same time and will leave you guessing till the end. 

Rating: 4/5 

Video Credit: 20th Century Studios
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