There are films you see that stick with you a lifetime, for better or worse. Films that touch your soul or blow you away so completely you can’t help but remember them. There are films that go the exact opposite way, and maybe are so awful to you that you can’t help but remember them, even if it is for all the wrong reasons. Still others are mediocre and forgettable, neither terribly good nor terribly bad yet don’t have much impact on you.
There are still others that are perfectly enjoyable the moment you see them -good even!- yet do not linger in your mind. Disposable entertainment, I suppose, which don’t offer much beyond what enjoyment you get from them at that moment.
Which brings us to Death On The Nile, the second -and much delayed- Kenneth Branagh directed and starring murder mystery featuring acclaimed author Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.
I enjoyed Murder on the Orient Express (2017), Mr. Branagh’s first go at Christie’s books, though I wouldn’t say it totally captivated me. Branagh was decent in the titular role though, from photographs presented before the film’s release, his mustache seemed awfully overdone and, physically, he just didn’t seem to me to have Poirot’s darker and dumpier “look”.
Yet the film was fine, I felt, and I was looking forward to Death On The Nile. Because of COVID, the film, like many others made in the past couple of years, had a very long delay before being released. During that time, unfortunately, a few of the actors involved in the production had certain personal… issues… which may have created considerable headaches to the movie’s producers. Of course, I’m referring to Armie Hammer (the issues around him are truly bizarre), Russel Brand (of late he seems to have become a COVID “truther”), and Letitia Wright (who had made some news regarding vaccines and COVID as well).
Anyway, Agatha Christie’s book was adapted before in 1978 and featured a murderer’s row of great actors (including Peter Ustinov in the Poirot role) but I honestly didn’t recall all that much of the film other than the ending was rather hard to grasp for my younger -perhaps too young- mind. Here’s that version’s trailer:
This time around the story was relatively easy to follow, involving Gal (Wonder Woman) Gadot’s Uber-rich (and sexually loose) Linette Ridgeway becoming involved with and marrying Armie Hammer’s Simon Doyle despite the fact that he was first engaged to Ridgeway’s long time friend, Emma Makey’s Jaqueline de Bellford and essentially stole him from her.
Jaqueline, we find, keeps showing up at events and parties Linette and Simon are at, and this creeps out the newlyweds out. While they try to party in Egypt for their honeymoon, she again shows up and the two decide to try to ditch her by taking a private cruise down the Nile accompanied only by their closest friends. Hercule Poirot is there as well and, we’ll find, for good reasons, but is also recruited by Linette because she fears something will happen to her.
Well, they didn’t call the story Death On The Nile for nothing, baby.
Here’s the new 2022 version’s trailer:
I don’t want to get into too many spoilers here but what immediately struck me about watching Death On The Nile is that it’s a subtle variation on Christie’s two better known novels: And Then There Were None and Murder On The Orient Express.
In the case of Death On The Nile, instead of a train going through a snowy landscape or being stuck on an island, you have your characters on a boat traveling the Nile. You have a cast of suspicious characters, all of whom had the potential to be the one who killed our ill-fated victim, and you have Poirot watching and analyzing everything before coming to his conclusion.
Death On The Nile does feature more victims than Murder On The Orient Express, and Branagh both as director and actor appears more comfortable in his dual roles, delivering what I felt was a satisfying tale. It was a little slow at times and perhaps a little silly (there’s an opening bit which tells us why Poirot has that ridiculous -at least in the movie version- mustache which is, as far as I know, an invention of this film and nothing Agatha Christie ever did in her novels). There are a couple of sequences that perhaps could have been trimmed here and there and, alas, despite having some very good actors involved, there are a few who don’t have all that much to do but look shocked or surprised or appear to be having fun partying 1937 style.
Which brings me to what I mentioned waaaaay up there about the different types of films, both great, terrible, and… disposable.
Death On The Nile is, unfortunately, a film that falls in the later category. It is a perfectly enjoyable work, in my opinion, yet one that doesn’t linger very long on the mind.
I literally saw the film only a couple of days ago -the first film I have gone to see in a theater since COVID began!- and today, a few days later and with time on my hands to write a blog entry, it quite literally took me a few moments to remember that was the film I had just seen…!
I don’t believe I’m losing my mind (though considering all the family and I have been through in the recent past it’s a wonder we haven’t) but it just goes to show how little this film impacted me beyond the enjoyment I had watching it.
Still, I do recommend the film, especially to those who enjoyed Murder On The Orient Express. It is a well done work which features some nice scenery (albeit much is CGI) and a murder mystery that is satisfying in its resolution.
Just don’t expect to be blown away by it.