“Love can be a very frightening thing.”
With this sentiment, “Death on the Nile” unravels a tantalizing tale of love, lust, and the lengths to which some individuals will go for the love of power, money, and self. Kenneth Branagh returns as Monsieur Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective, who must utilize his little grey cells to untangle a rather complicated love triangle.
While “Murder On The Orient Express” explored the theme of love when coupled with grief, “Death on the Nile” takes a darker turn, choosing instead to build upon the theme of obsession paired with greed. It might look like love at first, but it is instead a sinister look-a-like, with consequences that affect not only the love triangle, but everyone surrounding them.
[A quick note: after the news broke that Armie Hammer has been revealed as an abuser and had a penchant for cannibalism, I was unsure whether or not to go and see this film. I would caution moviegoers that while there is no allusion to this in the film, there are moments where he interacts with other characters and it becomes uncomfortable because it feels predatory. Proceed with caution, and make the decision that is healthiest for you.]
I would recommend those audience members who have not seen “Murder on the Orient Express” watch that before seeing “Death On The Nile” as there is a continuing character arc for our beloved Belgian detective. One of the best things that have come from this series of retellings is that we get a closer glimpse of Poirot’s emotional depths, personal philosophy, and history. Branagh plays him with a solemn dedication, along with sympathy for Christie’s most enigmatic character.
The screenplay dazzles, the soundtrack provides a backdrop of tension that gradually ratchets up to the stunning climax, and the scenery is absolutely marvelous. It doesn’t have the slick Hollywood feel I was afraid of, but rather a timeless elegance, universal themes, and performances that will stay with you long past the end credits.
Poirot is the most human I’ve ever seen him in “Death On The Nile” – acquiescing to a frightened lady’s plea for help, he is still unable to prevent a tragedy from occurring, but he takes that failure and attempts to garner what justice he can for the victims. This storyline is heightened by his backstory, which I will draw a curtain over for the sake of avoiding spoilers. Let’s just say that there is a reason for that enormous, overblown mustache, and it will bring tears to your eyes.
With news that a third Poirot script is being written, and that it is based on a less well-known Christie story, I have high hopes that we have not seen the end of Mr. Hercule Poirot, nor our seemingly endless fascination with the mysteries Agatha Christie penned. Personally, I would love to see an adaptation of “Peril At End House”, “Cards on the Table”, or “After the Funeral,” though from clues dropped by writer Michael Green, we could very well expect to see something along the lines of “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” or “Death In The Clouds”.
As for Branagh, he has mentioned a time or two that he would like to do a crossover film that includes another famous Christie character, Miss Jane Marple. If we do get a chance to see Christie’s two greatest detectives on screen together, I’d love to see someone like Miriam Margolyes, Kathy Bates, or Julie Walters take on the role.
In a time of special effects and fantastical settings (neither of which I am complaining about, I just like a variety in my media consumption), “Death On The Nile” is a quiet but bold reminder that often, the most compelling stories focus on emotion, desire, and action between the characters.
We don’t need to be wowed by something big in every scene. Sometimes it’s a look a character gives to another, a gesture one makes, or a few words spoken in a low voice that have the biggest impact. For example, these words uttered near the end of “Death On The Nile” by the detective himself: “…this has altered the shape of my soul.”
“Death On The Nile” is in theaters now.