Written by Atlanta Kroehn
Champagne in the Nile, poison in the glasses and blood sprayed around – master detective Poirot is travelling through Egypt. The boat trip directed by Kenneth Branagh may be a thrilling adventure, yet it does not demand much from the viewer’s `little grey cells`.
There a plenty of mysteries about the Nile. Egypt's lifeline was considered a gift from the gods, as it paved the way for agriculture. Cleopatra became pharaoh after a king drowns in the river together with numerous soldiers. And of course a famous whodunit puzzle takes place on the mystic waters. In 1937, Agatha Christie’s crime story Death on the Nile was published and since then adapted many times on the big screen, TV or theatre stages. The most recent one will be released in cinemas February 11, 2022.
The outrageously rich Linnet (Gal Gadot) and her let’s say very potent fiancé (Armie Hammer) travel the Nile on the luxurious river cruise ship Karnak. However, the romantic journey is marred by the presence of a stalker and several other not exactly well-meaning passengers. Luckily, Hercules Poirot (played by Kenneth Branagh) is also on board to solve everything – just only after the horrible crime has happened.
Branagh’s version of the detective already appeared in Murder on the Orient Express (2017), but this time the script really pushes the character far away from the original book. A character created as a dandy like mastermind, with snobby manners in order to observe higher society from within, has now turned into a farmer, a working class guy who is solemnly interested in restoring justice.
The backstory provided by the film as well as the detective's love affair probably disturbs hardcore Christie fans, but is balanced with Poirot's truly touching tears and punchy lines about the fictional character on a meta-level.
There are even more details which can be understood as meta-commentary. For example, when Linnet threatens to “buy the whole damn country", this not only shows her trying to solve all problems with money, but also expresses a certain colonial thinking and disrespect towards the country she enjoys visiting. While the film definitely seems to critics Linnet’s and other characters behaviours, Agatha Christie did not offer this level of awareness in her books.
The film makes another interesting point about Linnet. Even in 1937 she was an exceptionally cold hearted, occasionally mean, yet intelligent, self-determined woman. A key scene in which she refuses to sign a crucial document is stressed in the new film. And although she ruins the love life of her two female "friends", the Linnet from 2022 shows moments of solidarity between women, which becomes clear in her support for business manager Rosalie (Letitia Wright).
No doubt, the puzzle is less complex than the original version, it is a modern version of the mystery though. That does not explain, however, why the (CGI) pyramids look like made out of plastic bricks and why the actors most of the time performing in front of an easy to sense green screen. If one gets seasick while watching, the reason my not be rough swell or overdose of champagne but rather bumpy camera work.
All in all, Death on the Nile comes up with few clues but a lot of action, inspiring music, crazy hot dancing scenes and sensitive sequences. For those who would like to investigate even more after watching this one, both Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and (1974) as well as Evil under Sun (1982), Sleuth (2007) and of course Knives out (2019) can be recommended.