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Death on the Nile review: Kenneth Branagh makes an old fashioned mess

Every franchise has its logo. Batman has those pointed ears on his sleek car, the Bat-Signal. Jurassic Park has mosquitoes in amber and intelligent velocity species. Hercules Poirot? He has a fancy mustache, the mustache has appeared in many movies, TV series and stage plays. Agatha Christie’s favorite detective isn’t a synonym for mysteries and solving them in the same way as Sherlock Holmes, but his trademark? Strong.

That brand is also on the rise. 2017 film by Kenneth Branagh Murder in the East show, perhaps Christie’s most popular novel about the mustached detective, was a box office hit, with a total of $352 million at the box office on a $55 million budget. Branagh plays Poirot himself and is surrounded by an all-star cast, including Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe, Josh Gad, Judi Dench and others – all packed in a marketing campaign infatuated in Imagine Dragons.

Like Batman Begins, Murder on the Orient Express ends with a sequel tease, which in this case promises “a bloody river murder”, signaling that Branagh will adapt Christie’s Death on the Nile next. Then COVID-19 threw that plan into chaos. Originally scheduled for a 2019 holiday release, but much delayed due to the pandemic, Death on the Nile arrived two years later than planned, and it was a foreign film for it. While the film is finished and its studio hopes for a profitable wide release, its cast has amassed a number of PR disasters of varying severity, including Letitia Wright’s alleged anti-vax messageBy Gal Gadot controversial stance about the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and most notably, the strange and disturbing allegations of sexual abuse and coercion against Armie Hammer, leading to his life in Hollywood exile.

Simon Doyle and Linette Ridgeway walk hand in hand through Egypt in Death on the Nile.

Photo: Rob Youngson / 20th Century Studios

Unfortunately for Death on the Nile, Hammer’s portrayal of armed man Simon Doyle, who marries above his station, was at the heart of the plot, and speculation about the film’s pandemic release strategy soon gave way to speculation. guess about its Armie Hammer strategy. Two years later, the studio’s response to Hammer seems similar to many corporate responses to the pandemic: Disney and 20th Century Studios are quietly working on the film without acknowledging the problem.

Mostly, this makes Death on the Nile an awkward movie, a movie that’s hard to analyze in the trailers Show Hammer only when passing, and one that comes at an awkward time, as the ongoing pandemic turns into a public uncertainty about how to behave in a new normal that lacks clarity. A sudden February release is a compromise made for a film that normally comes out over a holiday season, but could succeed without the competition. What a perfect setting for a movie about the petty bourgeoisie, greedy for wealth before killing people for it.

Death on the Nile is a mystery surrounding one of the most comprehensible acts of murder: a wedding. (Don’t you think so? Try planning.) Simon Doyle, a man with few assets, has just married wealthy heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot), a shocking development following the marriage. Doyle’s earlier whirlwind with Linnet’s best friend, Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey). To celebrate their marriages, the newlyweds honeymoon with friends and family aboard the SS Karnak, a delightful barge that will take them across eastern Africa for a few days of partying. stocked and “enough champagne to fill the Nile”.

A honeymoon party is taking place in Karnak's ballroom in Death on the Nile.

Photo: 20th Century Studios

While Poirot is on vacation in Egypt, his friend Bouc (Tom Bateman, takes over his role from Murder on the Orient Express) invites him to join the carnival, which takes place very sadly when Linnet is found murdered. With a ship full of suspects and confined spaces shrinking as the killer grows desperate, Poirot must find the culprits before they strike again – and like in every good mystery, It’s just that everyone is suspicious and motivated.

As Poirot, this time Branagh gives a more muted performance to the lead role. He’s a detective who prides himself on his ability to solve crimes, yet is resented by them. Branagh alludes to the sadness hidden behind his huge mustache. That basis is appreciated in a cast filled with uneven acting – their quality is often commensurate with the length of a film devoted to a single character. The exception is Hammer. Simon Doyle is a character who must convey the same charm and intimidation that Hammer has shown in films like Sorry to bother you and Rebecca. But the movie doesn’t come to a vacuum – the actor’s knowledge of constant scandals makes it hard to read any his work generously. His presence was almost like a trophy.

Unwaveringly faithful to Christie’s novel, at least in general terms, Branagh’s adaptation of a screenplay by Michael Green has made several tweaks to bring it in continuity with the previous film (the novels). original sequence) and emphasize the class consciousness of the book. In this version, for example, Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo) is a blues singer instead of a romance novelist, and her niece/manager Rosalie (Letitia Wright) is in love with Bouc — the relationship her mother has. of Bouc that Euphemia (Annette Benning) is suspicious of. of, due to the wealth Bouc could inherit – and while Euphemia was too polite to say so, because of Rosalie’s race.

Hercule Poirot points a gun in Death on the Nile

Photo: 20th Century Studios

Although the film is slow and sometimes chaotic, its portrayal of love as a class war gives the film a series of intriguing meanings that are interesting to think about, even if it doesn’t unfold. on screen in the most engaging way. Beautifully presented and lavishly designed, Branagh’s vision is hampered by a large cast that leaves too many characters underdeveloped, and the slow pace can make viewers feel like they’re stuck on Karnak with the aforementioned cast, not in a good way.

However, there is some appeal to Death on the NileOld fashioned appeal, with its wide shots, warm colors and absolute confidence that its mystery is enough to keep audiences interested. It’s flashy because of the characters: This is a story of extremely wealthy Europeans frolicking on the Nile while locals carry their bags and serve them lobster, where a marriage and a A signature can take a man from a relatively obscure place to being a social elite. It was the perfect place to track down Hercule Poirot.

Agatha Christie’s depiction of Poirot has always portrayed him as a disgusting mess, to the point where he considers symmetry to be haunting. In Branagh’s hands, this was largely played for comedy; In one scene, he can’t start eating dessert until all of his pastries are perfectly arranged on the plate. But there is also a tragedy here, a sadness for the man who specializes in solving crimes and finding balance among members of high society. Unfortunately for Hercule Poirot, no symmetry was found there. As Linnet said before she died, no one is your friend when you have money – and it’s no coincidence that after she dies, everyone around her is a suspect.

Death on the Nile Currently showing in theaters.

https://www.polygon.com/reviews/22929797/death-on-the-nile-review Death on the Nile review: Kenneth Branagh makes an old fashioned mess

Aila Slisco

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