Film Review – Death on the Nile (2022)

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It’s been something of a strange time for everyone in the film industry in the last few months: the impact of the pandemic is slowly correcting itself but the choppy waters throughout saw the sad closure of many theatres and job losses across the board as film studios postponed the releases of much of their slates as Covid took hold. One of those heavily delayed was Death on the Nile, the hotly anticipated second film featuring Kenneth Branagh as master sleuth Hercule Poirot after he was summoned to Egypt at the end of 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express but it wasn’t just the pandemic that has unsteadied its bowels.

A huge success ($352million against its $55million budget) a new/old series was born and swiftly 20th Century Fox greenlit the next adventure down the tranquil Nile with Branagh back to star and direct once more. Then player two entered the game, namely The House of Mouse, and the course was changed a little but finally, after surviving the bumpy seas, we’re off the Middle Eastern paradise although whether this is your idea of paradise remains to be seen.

Branagh, of course, has been having his own bumpy couple of years in his now 19 films strong directorial career, and his recent output does seem akin to that of the original Star Trek films: one good, one bad. 2018’s All is True was a critical darling but his adaptation of author Eoin Colfer’s much-loved Artemis Fowl was a disaster and had fans criticising much of the film’s adaptation, as well as its own delays and eventual release on Disney+ due to the pandemic. 

This year, of course, he has already been bathed in acclaim with Belfast but has followed it up with, sadly, Death on the Nile which is almost exactly what it says on the tin: a slow, ponderous chug up the famous river. You can see Branagh’s love for the material and the character but it’s sunk under the weight of its hammy dialogue, ludicrous plot points – a few additions are both barmy and strange – exhaustingly bad CGI and an almost entirely underwhelming ensemble, the choices the film makes would be even too much for Monsieur Poirot’s “little grey cells”. 

As dry as the desert that surrounds it and nowhere near as spectacular, Death on the Nile was always up against it with all of its pre-release “buzz” but we didn’t expect it to be quite so poorly executed, especially given the splendour of Belfast. Slapdash and unrefined, it looks mightily cheaper than its $90million budget would suggest, feeling and sounding like it’s been out in the sun for too long. Some baffling editing and uninspired direction also fail to lift the film from the doldrums making the whole endeavour feel sloppy and uninspired with even Branagh’s usual flair all lost at sea. 

Indeed, across the board the performances are poor and make you scratch your head why many of the ensemble were brought aboard in the first place, with only Emma Mackey and Sophie Okonedo’s fierce turns, as well the surprisingly touching additions of Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, rising above the sand as you try in vain to shake the exterior noise surrounding the film for others involved. You can’t and it’s even further to the detriment of this one that it makes it even more of a cinematic death on the Nile.

★ 1/2


Thriller, Mystery | Cert: 12A | UK Cinemas, 11th February 2022 | 20th Century Studios | Dir. Kenneth Branagh | Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot, Emma Mackey, Annette Bening, Tom Bateman, Russell Brand, Rose Leslie, Sophie Okonedo, Letitia Wright, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders

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