Death on the Nile | Third Space

Death on the Nile

A beautiful throwback to another era of writing, filmmaking and mystery
Tue 8 Feb 2022

4 out of 5 stars

The production of Death on the Nile has nearly as many twists and turns as Agatha Christie's original deadly trip through Egypt. Initially, the film’s release was rescheduled because of the pandemic’s impact on worldwide cinemas, then stories started to leak about the abusive rumours of the film's lead actor, Armie Hammer. This news led director Kenneth Branagh to consider reshoots, which proved to be a financial impossibility. With each date change and the ensuing news stories, it was like drips in the water that turned into ripples that pushed the launch of this classic mystery into early 2022. Time will tell if this production manages to ride the waves of controversy or sink under the cancel culture pressure.

For fans of Branagh’s interpretation of Hercule Poirot, the famed director takes the world’s most recognisable moustached detective to the Middle East. Set in the 1930s, it all began in London where the famous sleuth witnesses the meeting of Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) and Simon Doyle (Hammer) at one of the city’s popular speakeasies. A few months later, as he holidays in Egypt, their paths cross again as the couple is now married and are enjoying their honeymoon. The couple has brought along an entourage that includes family and friends to celebrate their union. All are welcome to enjoy the Doyle's generosity except one guest who keeps crashing the party, Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey). She is Simon Doyle’s former fiance and Linnet’s friend who continues to show up at the various festivities that occur since their wedding. Due to this continual unwanted intrusion on their marriage, the couple decides to hire the private ship S.S. Karnak to take them on a tour of the Nile river outside the reach of Miss de Bellefort.

Hercule Poirot is approached to assist with the couple's protection and is later informed that his services would be needed for other vital investigations. Story elements lead to various developments that lead to a murder on the ship. Similar to Agatha Christie’s other novels, every passenger has a motive that makes them a suspect in the killing and leads to exceptional levels of tensions on-board. While the famed detective investigates, he must deal with motion sickness and confront personal revelations that lead to distraction. As he pushes towards the answers to the mystery, more individuals' lives are put into jeopardy and it is never quite evident who the murderer will turn out to be in the end.

Similar to his translation of Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh shows his keen cinematic eye as he paints a beautiful picture of the desert nation. One where the rivers and the sands surrounding it become a character within the story. His eye for detail makes each element of this visual smorgasbord from the stunning wardrobe to the use of the vintage watercraft cause this to be a spectacle worth studying and enjoying. As a director, he takes this aspect to the edge of distraction. Yet, the aesthetics never get in the way of telling the legendary story.

He moves from the attention to detail of the visuals and shows he has even more skill to develop his characters and the cast which portrays them. Branagh recruits the talents of Michael Green, who worked with him on the previous Christie remastering. They manage to modernise the script to incorporate elements that will help to connect with contemporary audiences. While some of these details seem a bit out of place in a film set in the 1930s, they do not divert attention from the actual murder mystery. Due to Branagh’s tight script and methodical method of bringing the audience along on the ride, this keeps the audience guessing all the way until the end.

This all-star cast shows how they deserve to be in the film regardless of their role's size. Fans of the book may take issue with how Branagh interprets some of the characters. Still, from Gal Gadot to Sophie Okonedo to Annette Benning, everyone has a part to play and they fit their characters well. Even though some have caused difficulties off-screen, this should not divert attention from the exquisite work of this actor/director. Also, there is a hope that this retelling of the legendary author’s work will provide the world with more films in the future.

REEL DIALOGUE: Can we trust anyone or anything?

Trust. It is a word that is essential for human relations to flourish. The challenge is to know who to trust. Throughout any murder mystery, but especially with Death on the Nile, the question comes back to knowing who to trust for wise counsel. To know where to place your personal faith and who to trust when things are at their worst.

This is an issue that impacts fictional tales and real life, too. It is not hard to realise that most people will fail to find the answers in this area at some point. Yet, what is known of the God of the Bible is that he is the only one that is truly trustworthy. If you are looking for someone to trust, how about picking up the Bible and finding the only genuinely trustworthy being in existence.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5