Death On The Nile (2022)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 2/13/22
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Tom Bateman, Letitia Wright, Sophie Okonedo, Emma Mackey, Annette Bening, Rose Leslie, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal

The film opens with an extended flashback of Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) fighting on the front lines during World War I, which serves as a backstory for his ridiculous moustache as well as a source of tragic heartache and world-weary cynicism. Next, we're introduced to Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) and Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey) in a sweaty jazz club, busting out some laughably gratuitous and awkwardly erotic dance moves while Poirot watches like a dirty voyeur. Needless to say, the film doesn't start with its best foot forward and burns through a lot of goodwill before the adventure even starts. Ultimately, none of this exposition even matters, and the film would probably be better off without it. Six months later, Doyle marries beautiful socialite Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) and they go on their honeymoon in Egypt, while the jilted and spiteful Jackie stalks them and tries to break the couple apart. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, Poirot ends up on the same riverboat as Ridgeway and her wedding guests, all of whom hold some grudge against her. When Ridgeway winds up dead, it's up to Poirot to untangle the intricately plotted murder and deduce who is responsible.

Similar to Branagh's "Murder On The Orient Express" (2017), the movie was shot on 65mm film and the production is top-notch. However, it doesn't really have a "film look," and a number of awkward CGI scenes shift the tone and spoil the atmosphere. Some unexpected liberties are taken with the source material and several characters are combined and/or reimagined, which alters the plot and creates confusion for anyone who is familiar with previous adaptations of the story. The end result is the same, but unfortunately the climax stumbles and the audience actually laughed at the awkward and illogical denouement. An unnecessary epilogue also feels awkwardly out of place. Despite its various flaws, I enjoyed the film for its lush setting, exotic locales, and period charm. The cast does a wonderful job, even though none of the characters are particularly likable. Gal Gadot is radiant throughout, although it's difficult to sympathize with her character given her attitude and extravagant indulgences. While I wasn't a fan of Peter Ustinov's Poirot in the 1978 film, I think that adaptation worked better as a whole.