‘Death on the Nile’ is Excellence in Storytelling

While a longer wait than we were expecting, the second Hercule Poirot movie from 20th Century Studios is worth the wait. Based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel, Death on the Nile is most likely considered a sequel to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, since it once again stars Kenneth Branagh as the super sleuth with the majestic mustache (and also serves as the film’s director) and one character from the previous film. However, this is whole new adventure with a whole new fantastic cast. In fact, this outing is even better than the first.

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot. (20th Century Studios)

Though the timing is not clearly defined, Death on the Nile takes place after the events on that death train. Mr. Poirot is on an Egyptian vacation when he unexpectedly runs into one of the stewards from the Orient Express, Bouc (Tom Bateman) at the pyramids of all places. This returning friendship is a welcome surprise as you know that the two will be working together again very shortly. As is turns out, Bouc is there for a wedding of a family friend, the wealthy Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) to Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) and somehow Poirot just happens to be at the right place at the right time and is invited to join the couple, and their wedding party, for an extended honeymoon excursion aboard a river steamer.

The happy couple met only a few months earlier when Linnet met up with her childhood friend, Jacqueline De Bellefort (Emma Mackey) who, at the time, was dating Doyle. Needless to say, Jacqueline wasn’t invited to the wedding.

Gal Gadot as Linnet Ridgeway, Emma Mackey as Jacqueline De Bellefort and Armie Hammer as Simon Doyle. (Twentieth Century Studios)

The film is almost halfway through before said murder takes place, which will make some viewers antsy, but for others, they’ll just enjoy all of the sights and sounds of this movie with its slow burn story where everyone is a suspect of this nefarious crime. From the music to the costumed characters to the majestic scenery, this is a beautiful film and fantastic photography, which is expected with a Branagh film. More than that though, it is excellence in storytelling that is a throwback to classic movies of yesteryear. With so many movies that are based on comic books, comedies that rely on distasteful humor and action films with tired, over-used plots, Death on the Nile brings a story with fascinating characters and lots of twists and turns that will keep you guessing whodunit.

As you would expect, Gal Gadot is excellent in her role, but honestly, there isn’t a weak performance in the bunch. And most surprising is just how good an actor Russell Brand is playing a doctor. The rest of the cast includes Annette Bening, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders and Letitia Wright.

Ali Fazal as Andrew Katchadourian, Letitia Wright as Rosalie Otterbourne and Sophie Okonedo as Salome Otterbourne. (Twentieth Century Studios)

It’s always hard to do a review of a mystery in that there is only so much information you can give without giving away the movie’s plot and trust me, the less you know of this plot, the more you’re going to enjoy this movie. Some will find the story too slow for their taste, but I encourage those people to sit back and relax and you’ll feel as if you’re a part of this vacation/murder investigation as well. Others will want to compare it to Branagh’s first Poirot film. While I enjoyed that film too, Nile is even better. Still others will no doubt want to compare this film with the 1978 film (with its equally impressive cast) but I’ve never seen it (but will do soon!). I suspect that both films will have their own charms with this dark tale. This is no doubt thanks to excellence in its source material. Sure, there might be a small plot hole here and there, but don’t let that spoil it for you.

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