“Death on the Nile” is a movie adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel and a 1978 film, both of the same name. It’s a murder mystery where Belgian detective Hercule Poirot must deduce the killer of a young heiress while vacationing on the Nile.
Pro – A great cast
No doubt, a major allure of the film will be the all-star ensemble cast. The film is directed by, and stars, Kenneth Branagh as the aforementioned Poirot, a role he plays with great aplomb and enthusiasm.
Opposite him in the role heiress and eventual victim Linnet Ridgeway is Gal Gadot, perhaps the most in demand actress of the last five years. She is fine in the film, but the dialogue and character development seem to let her down. The remaining cast is full of stars and “that guys” who all seem up to the challenge and yet are similarly let down.
The star of the show is Sophie Okonedo in the role of Salome Otterbourne, the sultry jazz singer from America. She crushes every scene she’s in, and in a movie that feels full of wooden characters in sterile parts, her character feels fully alive at all times.
Con – Cool, not cool
The film opens with a black and white scene from World War I to establish Poirot’s skills. Shortly after that, the film transitions to a rocking scene inside a London Speakeasy. The scene has so much character and pizazz, it sets the audience up for the expectation of a really cool period piece. Unfortunately, it sets a tone it tramples over at times.
From London, the film shifts to Egypt and eventually the titular Nile. 1930’s Egypt is such an exotic and fascinating setting for a film, “Death on the Nile” should be engrossing just based on that alone, and yet, it’s not. The film wasn’t shot in Egypt and it shows. The scenery is hokey and the sets look fake. The parts in Egypt feel like background for a weekly cable murder mystery, not a big-budget Hollywood film. It’s immensely disappointing, and simply crushes the viewing experience at times. There are other scenes, such as the wedding banquet, that look and feel cool, but it just further underscores the poor parts.
Con – Follow the recipe
“Death on the Nile” takes some liberties with the original source material. That is not a bad thing, and often something a novel to movie transitions must do so. Unfortunately, the story as presented oscillates from confusing to down-right preposterous. This feels like a grave sin for a film based off a beloved novel.
The march of events to move the story towards its conclusion just don’t quite add up, and for a film based entirely around dialogue and characters, that’s not good. As mentioned above, most of the characters feel as wooden and manufactured as the fake Egyptian set they inhabit.
Overall, “Death on the Nile” suffers most from its own potential. A classic murder-mystery story with a great cast set in time and place brimming with exotic energy feels like it should be a homerun, not a utilitarian bunt for a single. The film is perfectly fine for a night’s entertainment, but far short of where it should have been. There are tons of new releases at the Fridley’s Palm Theater right now including Death on the Nile, so float on over and check one out.