Kenneth Branagh has already delivered one incredibly lavish adaptation of Agatha Christie's murder mystery works in Murder on the Orient Express, arguably her most famous novel to feature renowned detective Hercule Poirot. After a number of years passing and numerous delays along the way, Branagh is back both behind and in front of the camera with Death on the Nile, a murder mystery that is very much style over substance. 

Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot's (Kenneth Branagh) 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 Egyptian 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. 
Opening with a little origin story behind Poirot's ludicrous moustache, Death on the Nile takes a fair bit of time to kick into gear however, even when it does it fails to truly spark into life much at all. Sadly it all fizzles out with a whimper even as Branagh tries his best to inject some life into proceedings. There's lavish set designs against the idyllic backdrop of the Nile and its surrounding Egyptian sands but it all looks too glaringly artificial, making it hard to settle into the film's narrative. Combine that with some choppy editing and you have one hell of a clunky murder mystery on your hands. 

As for the actual mystery itself, it's passable but there's a distinct lack of energy in Michael Green's screenplay that makes this nowhere near as compelling as it should be. The characters and the part they play in the mystery should be a major selling point of the film yet it never feels as if any of them feel that different from one another, the film moving along at such a blinding pace it never takes much time to round them out too much for the audience.
Death on the Nile isn't without anything to enjoy though and in the cast there's plenty to have a good time with. Kenneth Branagh clearly loves playing Hercule Poirot and he once again proves to be the shining light of these films with a stern yet playful take on the legendary character. Sophie Okonedo chews as much scenery as she can in the role of a jazz singer while Emma Mackey does a stellar job in mixing it with some big names as the wronged woman with an eye on revenge towards the newly married couple. Gal Gadot has always been an actress who's yet to majorly impress me and sadly this film doesn't give her enough to do to change things in that regard however, she serves the film perfectly well because it never feels as if it's reaching for such great heights.

While it may prove to be a marginal improvement on Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh's Death on the Nile still falters a little and fails to truly become a murder mystery that will live long in the memory. People may say it could be because the story is so well known but I had no prior knowledge of the story in particular or who the killer was and I still left the film underwhelmed.

Verdict: ½


Popular Posts