Review: ‘Death on the Nile’: Stylishly mounted adaptation of an old-fashioned whodunnit

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Film: ‘Death on the Nile‘ (Running in Theatres).

Duration: 127 minutes.
Director: Kenneth Branagh. Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, Annette Bening, Armie Hammer, Letitia Wright, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Emma Mackey, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Rose Leslie, Sophie Okonedo and Tom Bateman
IANS Rating: ***

Based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel of the same name, this film is the third screen adaptation of it and a sequel to ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ (2017). It could also be considered the remake of the 1978 film of the same name, directed by John Guillerman.

This film, directed by Kenneth Branagh, is a formulaic whodunnit set on the luxurious river steamer Karnak, making its way through the Egyptian River Nile.

The narrative follows the beloved and notoriously gifted Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot, enacted by Branagh. As a guest of the heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot), Poirot finds himself invited on her maiden Nile cruise after a whirlwind romance and marriage to Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer), whom she met when he was engaged to her childhood friend Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey).

The others in the entourage are Linnet’s godmother Marie Van Schuyler (Jennifer Saunders) and her companion Mrs Bowers (Dawn French), a family friend, Bouch (Tom Bateman), and his mother Euphemia (Annette Bening), Linnet’s cousin Andrew Katchadourian (Ali Fazal), and Dr Bessner (Russell Brand), who had once proposed to Linnet. The jazz singer Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo) and her niece Rosalie (Letitia Wright).

En route, there is a murder. Ridgeway’s relatives, friends, and employees are suspects. Each one of them has a motive. How Poirot solves the mystery forms the crux of this mystery.

The film appears to start off on a pointless note (which also happens to be its prelude), right in the trenches of World War I. This scene has no connection to the tale that follows, except for explaining that love is too powerful and that the crime committed was linked to love.

Set in the backdrop of an epic landscape, and with over a dozen characters smartly dressed and topped with fine music, the plot moves at a leisurely pace, and thus the telling appears weak.

This isn’t a film for a deep murder mystery analysis. The plot just aims to catapult the audience to Poirot’s world, slam them with a curious and unravelling mystery, and expose the layers towards solving the mystery, which it nearly succeeds in.

Visually, the frames are mostly made up of tight close-ups and mid-shots, and accessorised with poor computer-generated images, which make the film appear old-fashioned.

On the performance front, every actor gives an earnest delivery. Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, Emma Mackey and Tom Bateman are all brilliant.

The Indian audience, especially Ali Fazal’s fans, will find it hard to recognise him (I mean it positively). He looks and has a very different disposition as he holds his stead among the international star cast with aplomb. (IANS)


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