Kenneth Branagh who is currently riding high on the multiple accolades being bestowed upon his semi auto biographic account of his childhood days in the black and white feature, Belfast, takes on something more accessible to the non arthouse audience in this Agatha Christie classic retelling. This is a follow-up to the remake of Murder on the Orient Express where Branagh also directed with himself taking on the titular role of Agatha Christie’s famed Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. I have to admit that I did not entirely liked Orient Express that much because of its convoluted plot and preposterous ending. But I am a die-hard Agatha Christie fan and an always game for any adaptation of her murder novels. Fortunately Death on the Nile is a marked improvement over Orient Express.
The opening flash back sequence of a young Poirot in World War I battle, was beautifully shot in black and white, and truly captivating. This excellence in its cinematography is a constant element in the entire movie, offering stunning sceneries of Egypt and the Nile, and the grand luxury steam ship the Karnak. This despite the fact that the film was apparently not filmed on location in the historical Egyptian landmarks. The replicas of the pyramids and statues of Ramses looked spectacular anyway especially in the close up scenes. Branagh often framed his scenes using converging lines and symmetry with great majestic impact. He wastes nothing on the screen and every corner of the frame has something to show. He also often frame his performers up close for pivotal scenes allowing the facial expressions to carry the performance with stronger effect.
As with all Agatha Christie stories, the fun is in guessing who the murderer or murderers are. I have to confess that in this case, I could guess “whodunit” quite easily including the motive. However, happily this did not rob the movie of its essence and entertainment value. Branagh may not have assembled as impressive a cast as he did for the Orient Express, but the cast here did extremely well. Particularly impressive were Armie Hammer and Gal Gadot as the newly weds. Their screen presence reminds me of the golden age of cinema where movie stars appear larger than life and simply dominate the screen and the audience’s attention whenever they appear. Some people may concur and brand this as a form of over acting. I call it star power. Kenneth Branagh is also excellent as Hercule Poirot. The inclusion of the the flash back to give the origin to his huge moustache provided a nice touch and human element to his otherwise cold and introvert personality.
Death on the Nile is a welcome entry to the cinemas today especially in the light of the over saturation and seemingly endless supply of mindless superheroes movies. It offers audiences a choice and the opportunity to rediscover what good cinema truly feels like.