Sometimes…bigger actually ISN’T better…
As the newest adventure of Hercule Poiriot hits theatres today, we see this adaptation of Death On The Nile come to our screens with a sweeping bombast fitting of the talent who is charged will telling this story, but it might also be the furthest from the spirit of the material as the character work has to share the screen with the adventure in these pages.
Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot’s Egyptian vacation aboard a glamorous river steamer turns into a terrifying search for a murderer when a picture-perfect couple’s idyllic honeymoon is tragically cut short. Set against an epic landscape of sweeping desert vistas and the majestic Giza pyramids, this tale of unbridled passion and incapacitating jealousy features a cosmopolitan group of impeccably dressed travelers, and enough wicked twists and turns to leave audiences guessing until the final, shocking denouement.
Make no mistake; Death On The Nile is a sexy and fun movie to watch but it plays bigger then the chamber piece ideals that Christie’s material has built its foundation. The core is there, but it adds a sweeping flourish that purists may want to push against.
There’s no denying that Kenneth Branagh is a multi-dimensional filmmaker and as he unfolds his version of Death On The Nile we get something that plays into the stylish flourish almost in a way that you’d expect from the likes of Brian DePalma.
It all looks amazing (even in spite of some occasional overuse of green screen)…but almost too much so as the first hour which basically establishes the murder plays a little too flashy and never gets us the crux of why we are all watching this story to begin with. It’s a ‘big’ movie and we find ourselves having a hard time getting invested in all the moving parts and overlooking the logic jumps of why Poirot seemingly always stumbles into these invites of high society parties. This film demands we go for the ride not because of the players at hand but rather because of the man who as at the tip of tying it all together, whereas the previous Orient Express felt more invested in letting the individual character evolve and shine.
Thankfully in this outing, Branagh really tries to dive into the identity and personality of Hercule Poirot. He’s very obviously having more fun here allowing his character some room to move and let his idiosyncrasies shine but sadly the rest of the ensemble actually feels a little wooden. Only Tom Bateman as his old friend Bouc, Emma MacKey as Jacqueline de Bellefort and the always underrated Sophie Okonedo as Salome Otterbourne get some moments to shine outside of the ensemble.
Ultimately the flaw in this film comes from screenwriter Michael Green. While he did a magnificent job on the previous film of balance character work with the flashy set pieces, this installment feels more focused on the glitz which gives this someone violent adaptation a feeling of sterility that is hard to ignore. When you have a film with the likes of Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Letitia Wright, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders & Russell Brand who just don’t have that much to do or offer the proceedings, it just feels like a missed opportunity.
That being said, with the ‘big’ and almost adventure feel that this Death On The Nile brings to the screen it is primed to make a lot of money and open up even more audiences to the works of Agatha Christie which at the end of the day is a good thing. However it sacrifices the chamber piece tension that have made so many of her works so very memorable all these years later.