"Death on the Nile" is an co-production between America and the United Kingdom and a 2022 release, so still really new and fresh this one here. The language is English for the most part and there are some segments in French too. In the closing credits you can read that this is a Kenneth Branagh production. I think this says it all. Branagh did not write the screenplay here, but he was still the man in charge of the film, of the entire project behind the camera. Truly amazing year he is having of course with Belfast too. For that film he actually wrote the script, but was not seen in front of the camera. Here it was the other way around. The writer here was Michael Green and well I really, really loved Logan, the film he was Oscar-nominated for, but I did not see too much in Blade Runner 2049, so everything was possible in terms of the story and how much I would (dis)like it. Story is key of course. Always for me. I have not read the Agatha Christie novel, so I also was not sure what was going to happen here and that proved the perfect background. But I will get to that later on. Let's stay with the basics for now maybe. The film runs for slightly over two hours and you will find many familiar names and faces in the cast. You also have to give props to Branagh because he does what he wants and will not let anybody tell him otherwise. Look at the decision to cast Katy Perry's ex Russell Brand as one of the less significant supporting characters, maybe the most serious character of the entire film. Unusual casting decision. I don't like Brand, so not gonna say anything really encouraging here, but I am genuinely in awe of Branagh for casting Armie Hammer after everything that was happened to him recently. So nice to see Hammer back in a big movie. I hope his career will keep going for a long time still. Always like to watch him and it is especially embarrassing how those who loved Call Me by your Name did not side with him at all. But that is another story. So I mentioned a few cast members already. Gal Gadot, Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Sophie Okonedo... there's more. Also some not so big names, but almost every actor who is in this film has an alright amount of screen time pretty much.
This is the second time I think that Branagh plays Poirot and I watched the first film too and I was not too impressed with that one, even if it wasn't a bad film either or anything, but this one here is clearly an improvement. If there is a third at some point and I guess there will be, then it would be nice if they can maintain the high level from this 2022 release. I was drawn in quickly here. I was curious about almost every single character what would happen to them and if they are maybe the killer. So mission accomplished you could say. I was really curious who did it. But I was also curious already about who would be the victim. It would take quite some time here until the first killing finally happens. I must admit that when we see Gadot's character as a corpse it was the only time I found her attractive. Sorry if this sounds harsh. Further killings happen in the second half of the film and this was basically when I found this to be a great and not just a good movie. So much tension. I did not care that much about Branagh himself or his character, maybe because he is not too likable, but also not really flawed in an interesting sense. I cannot say how close to the books they made him here and in general. But the other characters are totally enough to carry the movie. The film even starts with an introduction from decades earlier that showed us that Poirot's wits were also there already when he was a young man, young soldier. He basically helped all his fellow soldiers, but he could not save his commander and that haunted him for quite some time. Just like his partner not listening to him in terms of when she would come and visit. We also find out that he was severely injured in his face and that was the reason for his memorable moustache and in the end he loses the moustache, but that did not feel as memorable as it could have been. It seems Poirot has some kind of romantic interest in Okonedo's character and maybe losing the moustache was a sign that he also let go somehow when it comes to the woman who was the love of his life perhaps and who died at a very young age.
There are many exaggerations in this film, but they do help the matter in fact I would say. Of course, nobody could have been as great in seeing everything that Poirot saw, for example who his buddy is crushing on. I am not just talking about the solution who is behind the killings. Many other moments. One criticism I had initially was that I was not too happy about this random encounter between Poirot and his friend near the pyramids. That seemed too much of a coincidence, but then again we do get an explanation there and it was not a coincidence at all, so all is good. I have to dig really deep here to find flaws. Maybe the scene near the end before the solution when all the doors close, so nobody could get away was a bit too much. But Poirot is vain and loves to self-promote himself, so it does make sense too. If I have to mention one issue it is the explanation who threw the boulder from up there. That he did it, but also that he immediately admitted to doing it while even crying like a boy right after, before that, not admitting anything and being really determined to be completely innocent. Poirot's best moment for me was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek scene I must say. It was clearly the writer and Branagh toying with us for a moment and even mocking the material that every single character has to be a suspect in these films/novels. You know which moment I mean when you hear it. So best is to not take this film really seriously and if you manage (not) to do so, you will enjoy it the most. I mean just look at how Poirot's friend was the one who stole the priceless item. And saw that Gadot's character was dead. Or how said friend is killed right before he can reveal the killer's identity. That had a touch of James Bond almost.
The solution with the color red and what the water of the Nile had to do with it all was so-so. Also did not really convince me I must admit because this was really the only piece of evidence. I have to mention Emma Mackey in here. She is such a femme fatale eventually and even if I had no idea who was it that did the killing, in the end it is pretty accurate that it was those two who really had the safest alibis. Rose Leslie is also alright. Pretty deveastating for Gadot's character really because she is not totally mad at her former friend and even praises her on one occasion that sher former friend was the only one who was not after her money. How wrong could she be! Of course, not the entire film was a winner and it also felt a bit too complacent at times with the ways how it depicted same-sex romance and race issues. In the 21st century, the murderer could not be one of the Black characters. As for the same-sex romance, this was also a bit of a struggle for me to accept that Poirot really saw through all of that. But it's okay. His gloating was still entertaining I suppose. I must say the film really reminded me a bit of Knives Out here and there in terms of the entire tone. But a few more words on Death on the Nile. Of course, the film is set in Egypt, but except the pyramids you will not see too much really interesting stuff from the geographical point of view. This is not a film that will make you want to travel to Africa immediately. Northern Africa I should maybe say because this is not set in an area where many really Black people are living, even if you find some in this film, also cast-wise, and the music (genre) is accordingly. Overall, this film succeeded the most thanks to solid attention to detail. Look at the moment when Bening's character realizes her color red is gone. Or when Hammer's character makes a statement about how many times he had sex and corrects Gadot's character even. A bit of a power play. The latter may have felt superior there, but she really had no idea. The discussion between the two women was already really interesting early on and I personally would never pick Gadot over Mackey either, but that is of course entirely subjective.
Okay, that's it then. I think this film is very easy to appreciate, also on the small screen. You should watch it on the big screen if you still have the chance to do so, but I think that in movie theaters it is ending its run now, so doesn't matter where you watch it as long as you give it a go somewhere. For me never in doubt here that I would give the outcome a thumbs-up. Branagh also did wisely (or actually the writer did) in not giving Poirot too many scenes in which he feels unlikable. I mean the film relies on Poirot solving the mystery, but it does not rely on the audience wanting him to do so. He is not Columbo. It rather relies on the audience being really curious who did it. I know I was. So was everybody else at my showing I felt. And I think you will be as well. I wonder if having read the novel takes away from it. Now I also wonder if I was maybe just tired when watching the first film because I preferred this one here a lot and maybe I will give that older film a rewatch too at some point. But not right away. Maybe when a third comes up. As young as Branagh looks in real life, here he (or his character) actually looks around the age of 60. But go see for yourself. Also nice sets and costumes here. I would not have been mad at an Oscar nomination for Death on the Nile, but it wasn't meant to be. Pity. Or is it only eligible for the 2023 Oscars? Could very well be the case. I hope some remember it then still. This film was executed competently in pretty much every production department. It very much deserves to be seen and the weaknesses are really just minor. I give it an enthusiastic thumbs-up. I was really nicely entertained here. (tt7657566)