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Review: ‘Death on the Nile’ brings to life Agatha Christie murder mystery

“Death on the Nile” is the third feature film adaptation by actor-director Kenneth Branagh of the 1937 murder mystery novel of the same name by Agatha Christie featuring the fictitious mustachioed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot aboard an Egyptian steamer full of suspects.

"Death on the Nile" movie poster
"Death on the Nile" is actor-director Kenneth Branagh's feature film adaption of the Agatha Christie classic murder mystery of the same name.
Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — What would you do — what could you do — in the name of love?

That provocative and tantalizing question lies at the heart of “Death on the Nile,” the third feature film adaption of the Agatha Christie murder mystery of the same name from 1937.

On the heels of Valentine’s Day and in movie theaters comes the new release with an impressive ensemble cast led by actor-director Kenneth Branagh in a film set in an exotic locale.

Great Sphinx of Giza
The Great Sphinx of Giza is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, a mythical creature with the head of a man and the body of a lion. The statue stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt.
Contributed / Spencer Davis via Unsplash.com

The five-time Oscar nominee’s followup to another classic Christie novel, “Murder on the Orient Express,” that he adapted for film finds Christie’s Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in Egypt.

The mustachioed sleuth must once again use his deductive reasoning, eye for detail and understanding of the baser emotions of the human condition to catch a clever murderer.

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“There are so many conflicting hates and jealousies,” Poirot says accusingly at one point in the feature film playing at Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and Sunset Cinema in Jenkins.

A newlywed couple played by Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer choose to have their honeymoon on a river steamer along with friends and family of the heiress, and Poirot is along for the ride.

Every passenger aboard the vessel has a secret and a motive to want the wealthy heiress played by Gadot dead but who among them has the will and opportunity to kill her?

“I don’t feel safe here. I don’t feel safe with any of them. … When you have money, no one is ever really your friend,” Gadot's character, Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle, confides to Poirot.

There are so many conflicting hates and jealousies.
—- Hercule Poirot

Hammer plays the husband of no financial means who marries her in a whirlwind romance after being introduced to her by his former lover — and her former friend — Jacqueline de Bellefort.

Tom Bateman reprises his role in “Death on the Nile” from Branagh’s 2017 movie “Murder on the Orient Express.” Bateman plays a friend and confidante to Poirot, with expository dialogue.

Branagh’s supporting cast also includes other talented actors such as Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders and Letitia Wright.

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“Missing” is a new mystery or thriller about a single mom who disappears on a romantic vacation with her boyfriend. It’s up to her 18-year-old digital-savvy daughter to find out what really happened.

“Set against an epic landscape of sweeping desert vistas and the majestic Giza pyramids, this tale of unbridled passion and incapacitating jealousy features a cosmopolitan group of impeccably dressed travelers, and enough wicked twists and turns to leave audiences guessing until the final, shocking denouement,” according to the filmmakers.

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Mackey plays de Bellefort, the jilted former lover whose obsession with Hammer’s character drives her to the brink of madness as she attempts to win back his affections.

De Bellefort stalks the newlyweds at their every turn, even so far as to follow them to Egypt and book herself passage on the Nile River in Africa on the same glorious ship as the couple.

The thriller is rated PG-13 and was slated to be released in theaters after wrapping production in 2019 but was delayed like some other new releases because of the coronavirus pandemic.

I must admit I was intrigued by the trailer for “Death on the Nile” ever since I heard Depeche Mode’s apt “Policy of Truth” in a slow-tempo remix accompanying scenes from the whodunnit.

Christie debuted the iconic Poirot in 1920, and the private detective went on to appear in 33 novels, 50 short stories and various film, television, radio and stage adaptations.”

Frank Lee
Frank Lee

Branagh’s “Death on the Nile” does stray from the source material but in emotionally satisfying ways and grounds the legendary Poirot with his own tragic backstory of love integral to the plot.

The screenplay for “Death on the Nile” was written by Green, who was nominated for an Oscar for the 2017 superhero movie "Logan,” starring Hugh Jackman as Wolverine of the X-Men.

“Death on the Nile” currently holds a 65% approval rating among critics and an 83% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.

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The RottenTomatoes.com critics consensus reads: “Old-fashioned to a fault, the solidly entertaining ‘Death on the Nile’ is enlivened by its all-star cast and director-star Kenneth Branagh's obvious affection for the material.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum .

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I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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