The Reel Review
Five years after his adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh reprises his role as detective Hercule Poirot in his adaptation of the deadly Agatha Christie whodunit set on a 1935 riverboat navigating Egypt via one of the world’s longest rivers – the Nile.
Where Death on the Nile excels is in the gorgeous period costumes and production design. Even with its hokey looking, CGI-laden backdrops, the twisty mystery on the beautiful ship is a fun time capsule and the large, all-star cast is entertaining, even if several (in particular, the comic duo Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders) are terribly underutilized. Among those getting more screen time, Gal Gadot, Sophie Okonedo and Emma Mackey (Sex Education) are standouts.
Branagh’s adaptation stays mostly faithful to Christie’s 1937 novel, although he does rush through other characters’ backstories as an afterthought in his quest to make this adaptation all about Poirot’s perspective. A few character modifications add racial diversity and freshen up the story to give it more emotional heft than the sillier, but more joyful 1978 adaptation that starred Peter Ustinov, Mia Farrow and Angela Lansbury. Despite its overly serious, Poirot-centric focus, Christie fans will still get a kick out of seeing the intricate, far-fetched plot play out with a slightly different death toll.
• Death on the Nile originally was scheduled for theatrical release in 2019, but was first delayed to 2020 due to production delays, then to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then to 2022 due to sexual impropriety allegations against one of its stars, Armie Hammer.
• The only other character besides Poirot to appear in both this film and Murder on the Orient Express is Poirot’s friend Bouc (Tom Bateman), who was added in place of another character in the novel.
• The iconic, 128-carat, Tiffany Yellow Diamond featured in the film is a replica of one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered – unearthed in South Africa in 1877. Valued at $30 million, the actual diamond has only been worn publicly four times – by socialite Mary Whitehouse at the 1957 Tiffany Ball; by Audrey Hepburn in a new setting for Breakfast at Tiffany‘s publicity photos in 1961; by Lady Gaga at the 2019 Oscars; and by Beyoncé in a 2021 Tiffany ad campaign.