Review by Camden Ferrell
Agatha Christie is one of the most accomplished mystery writers in history, and director Kenneth Branagh is no stranger to adapting her work, having made Murder on the Orient Express in 2016. Death on the Nile is Branagh’s adaptation of Christie’s novel of the same name. Despite having great source material and a talented cast, this movie is a barely passable mystery that suffers from its execution and overall aesthetic.
Acclaimed detective Hercule Poirot finds himself in Egypt where he joins a wedding party on the Nile. After a murder, he must investigate it and find the culprit. This is a standard set up for murder mysteries, and while it’s nothing new or revolutionary, it still has the potential to entertain audiences.
The script was penned by Oscar-nominee Michael Green, who also wrote the screenplay for Branagh’s previous Christie adaptation. His writing embodies an over-the-top and extravagant style and tone that make the movie hard to take seriously. While it was clearly intentional, it only works on a purely superficial level. For those who have read the novel, there might not be much to enjoy from the movie. This also holds for people who can deduce the ending fairly early on as the mystery is one of the biggest parts of the viewer’s experience. While he can’t change the original ending, the script could have done a better job of maintaining its mystery longer.
The acting throughout this movie was underwhelming considering the amount of talent on screen. The best performances came from Annette Bening and Emma Mackey even though they both weren’t performing as well as they have proven to be in the past. The rest of the cast, despite not being horrific, was mostly forgettable in their respective roles.
Even though the movie is still mostly entertaining, it’s through no help from its execution. The pacing is erratic, and the visual effects are purposefully oversaturated to the point of looking far too artificial. The camerawork is also unhinged and has a lot of distracting moments. Branagh has proven himself to be a talented director, but this movie might end up being seen as one of his lesser works.
Death on the Nile is your standard murder mystery that might be too predictable for most audiences. It barely succeeds at being an entertaining film, but that is mostly due to the inherent nature of the story. The acting, effects, and execution leave a lot to be desired, and it may not be the adaptation that Christie fans would like.
Death on the Nile is in theaters February 12.