Thursday, February 10, 2022

Death on the Nile


When socialite heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) meets the fiancé of her friend Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey) in a speakeasy in London, she immediately falls in love. Six weeks later, Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) ditches his fiancée and marries the filthy rich best friend instead. They spend their honeymoon in a tour of Egypt on board the S.S. Karnak, a luxury ship ferrying them through the Nile. Blissful as it all might sound, the bride makes her worries about her security known to Belgian detective extraordinaire Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), who suggests that the newlyweds just go home if she feels unsafe on the boat. When she winds up with a bullet to the temple the next morning, a complicated game of whodunnit ensues to determine who the murderer is. Is it her communist godmother Marie Van Schuyler (Jennifer Saunders) who detests her wealth? Her lady maid Louise Bourget (Rose Leslie) whose engagement she had a hand in breaking off? Her ex-fiancé doctor Linus Windlesham (Russell Brand)? As the body count begins to increase, the detective must work overtime to prevent another death on the Nile.

Oh no, it’s Armie Hammer! RUN! He might eat us. Oh no, It’s Letitia Wright! RUN! She is not vaccinated. Oh no, it’s Gal Gadot! RUN! This movie was banned in Kuwait and Lebanon because of her. Damn. How problematic is this film’s ensemble? Seriously. Controversies aside, though, it is good that it is finally out for the world to enjoy. Despite the loopholes and delays caused by reasons we could only speculate about, Death on the Nile relies on an enjoyable whodunnit storyline that indulges you in unleashing your inner Hercule Poirot. Or not, because the character is too contrived a sleuth to allow you to have that much fun.

Populate the cast with gorgeous people and your moviegoer will not go out of that cinema with regrets. What? We love watching beautiful people suffer. In terms of acting, it is a mixed bag. You have the likes of Branagh and Annette Bening who do what they can with whatever they are given. And then you have Hammer and Gadot who tend to overact and underact, respectively. But then again, as the characters are killed one by one, you grow impatient as a spectator, which propels you even further to anticipating the story’s resolution. It’s intriguing like that, and perfect for people with short attention spans.

While it is much easier for such a plot to simmer and end up as a delectable dish for your palette to devour in written form, we understand that a film’s two-hour run means having to adjust to condense everything in a more diluted way that may or may not affect the original storyline’s credibility. Nevertheless, Branagh is a talented and dedicated director. What the story lacks in script and plot development, he makes up for by presenting a decent mystery thriller with a gorgeous Egyptian backdrop that is simply a treat for the eyes. This, however, also leads to Poirot’s one too many uninspired and convenient epiphanies.

Perhaps that is the problem, as the character admits in a weirdly meta kind of way once or twice. But who are we kidding here? Agatha Christie’s novels are anchored on him, so we really don’t have a choice. It’s just that it feels more like you are being spoon-fed by Poirot, him ending up seemingly too brilliant for his own good. Like, you just have to believe the guy. Just because. Period. End of story. He is the main character after all, doh.

In spite of all these, Death on the Nile is still an enjoyable thriller. Enjoyable. That is the keyword here. Once the murders start and the clues and red herrings pour in, it feels like you are part of the investigation. And that is fun. Who doesn’t want to play a game of whodunnit once in a while, right?

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