The COVID-19 pandemic delayed Kenneth Branagh’s Death On The Nile (2022), the sequel to his Murder On The Orient Express (2017), again and again for two whole years. Presumably this gave the filmmakers time to tinker with the CGI effects so that they are superior to the laughable visuals in the earlier Poirot installment. However, no amount of post-production time can salvage a poorly written or lazily directed feature film.
In adapting Agatha Christie’s novel of the same name, Branagh and company opted to embrace a cinematographic langue reminiscent of films from the forties and fifties. Death On The Nile features far fewer virtuosic camera moves than Murder On The Orient Express, but when these stylistic flourishes do occur they feel unmotivated and pretentious. Branagh doesn’t seem to know how to use the glass constructions on the boat though he does seem to be invested in cut aways of computer animated animals with allegorical implications.
Death On The Nile feels overly long, especially with the prologue which answers a lot of questions regarding Poirot’s infamous mustache. Branagh must believe that depicting Poirot’s heroism in WWI helps to humanize the character even if that is counter to Agatha Christie’s source material. Branagh stages the WWI sequence with all the familiar tropes of that genre, embracing unintentionally the plasticity of those illusions. The ready-made quality of the prologue coupled with some comically wooden acting undermines Branagh’s lofty intentions.
This paradox is the thesis of Branagh’s Poirot movies. For all of Branagh’s pomposity as a director he can’t rein in either the camp nor the single dimensionality of his ensemble’s performances. Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Letitia Wright, and Sophie Okonedo are all awash in the Egyptian scenery without a single character that is as defined as the ancient structures that litter the scenery.
Death On The Nile is pure popcorn fair without the energy or verve to support an audience’s investment. There isn’t much in Death On The Nile to recommend it to those who are neither devotees of Agatha Christie or fans of the travelogue picture. It’s hard to invest in a mystery when one doesn’t know the character of the victims at all which is the greatest mistake this blockbuster makes.