TL;DR – A sequel that boosts in individual performance while lacking in the ensemble.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ streaming service that viewed this film
Death on the Nile Review –
When COVID struck, nearly every major film was bumped from the schedule. For many, this gave them a moment to release in a time when people could see them safely. However, for others, the delay meant that it was released after a significant scandal decoupled one of its major stars. Alas, with this outing, we get a film that was the latter. But the question I had when going in was, could it overcome it?
So to set the scene, we open in the trenches of WW1, where a well-moustachioed Captain is told that they need to take a bridge, a death note. However, a young Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) tells of a different way to attack the bridge that won’t leave them exposed. It worked, but a tripwire kills the captain. After the events of Murder on the Orient Express, Poirot finds himself in Egypt and the company of his friend Bouc (Tom Bateman) and Bouc’s mother Euphemia (Annette Bening) as they tour down the Nile. They are part of a wedding party, of a whirlwind marriage of Linnet “Linny” Ridgeway-Doyle (Gal Gadot) and Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer). But there is more danger on the Nile than the crocodiles lurking under the water.
Watching this sequel right after the first film puts this review in an interesting perspective because you can directly see the areas where the film has improved, and yet those other areas where things have regressed or stagnated. However, one clear improvement is Kenneth Branagh’s performance. He is one of only two returning cast members from the first film, and you can see him take the character to a new level this time out. There is a lot more nuance, especially in the third act. When you see him with a gun, I actually believe that he would use it. There is a pain in his performance that is more than just the annoyance of the first film. I think it also helps that this is a let well known of his stories, and even if you do the outcome, there are enough changes to mix things up.
Unfortunately, while the ensemble cast was one of the first film’s strengths, here it is, one of its more frustrating elements. Annette Bening feels miscast, which impacts the end of the story. Gal Gadot feels like we never got a firm grounding on her character, which the whole narrative is based on. It feels like Armie Hammer was removed as much as possible from the film, which is understandable, but that affects the plot, and Rose Leslie was just wasted. At least Sophie Okonedo owned every moment she was on screen, and having Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders play off each other is always a delight.
One issue that revealed itself again was the integration of practical and visual effects. You don’t need to film on location in this day and age because you can use digital sets or digital extensions. I don’t mind this. However, when using a mix of digital and practical elements, you need to work on the compositing. In the last film, it was the integration of the train into the landscapes. Unfortunately, it is more than just the vehicle this time around. There are these moments that you just get yanked out of the film, and if this were on a TV series budget, you would wave that away, but not here.
In the end, do we recommend Death on the Nile? Well … look, I don’t think this was a better film than Murder on the Orient Express. However, it is primarily watchable throughout the film, so you can do a whole lot worse if it is suggested. If you liked Death on the Nile, we would also recommend to you Knives Out.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Death on the Nile
Directed by – Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by – Michael Green
Based on – Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Music by – Patrick Doyle
Cinematography by – Haris Zambarloukos
Edited by – Úna Ní Dhonghaíle
Production/Distribution Companies – Kinberg Genre, Mark Gordon Pictures, Scott Free Productions, TSG Entertainment & 20th Century Studios
Starring – Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, Letitia Wright & Susannah Fielding
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13