Kenneth Branagh brings audiences yet another adaptation of one of Agatha Christie’s most beloved Hercule Poirot novels in Death On The Nile. The classic story that follows everyone’s favourite Belgian sleuth as he’s invited on a cruise along the world’s longest river by a fearful newlywed played by the regal Gal Gadot.
Many will already be familiar with the story of Death On The Nile given the countless films already made based on the famous book. However, even if you’ve managed to avoid knowing “whodunnit” for the past eighty five years, the culprit will be mind bogglingly obvious to you if you’ve seen any form of murder mystery. This is of course because this is a classic story that will have undoubtedly been ripped off hundreds of times, but also because of the very hammy style of direction that is applied to the crafting of this picture. Several shots are completed in a way to project to you important information in a terribly unsubtle way. So much so you’d have to be blind to miss a lot of the cues.
This hammy directing is not only used for the creation of the film but for the acting as well. This becomes very apparent in the scene that is to be expected in all Poirot stories where the detective gathers all the suspects in the same room to reveal his theories to his audience. When the truth is revealed, there’s an awful lot of actors making massive O shapes with their mouths and projecting obnoxiously loud gasps. There are a lot of scenes like this where it almost feels like a parody of an Agatha Christie novel rather than a straight adaptation.
The scent of parody is not quelled by the casting of stand up comedians like Russell Brand and Dawn French in roles that are clearly meant to be quite tragic. Brand, while being very funny in films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall (where he plays very much a caricature of himself), he’s unable to convey the gravitas needed for a more sombre role such as Dr. Bessner. One scene in particular where he is so overcome with rage that he attacks a fellow passenger, is pretty laughable given the forced nature of the scream he ejects from his lungs. Brand, French and Jennifer Saunders all feel like they’re in a different film.
Ironically though, especially given what’s been said about her acting abilities in the past, Gal Gadot is fairly outstanding as the beautiful Linnet Doyle. Her performance is appropriately innocent and moving and she has reasonably good chemistry with her on screen partner played by Armie Hammer. And of course, Kenneth Branagh remains a fabulous Hercule Poirot; he’s given a nice prologue back story that adds some character to the detective but is ultimately rather futile.
Death On The Nile is a fun little romp that will surely please fans of the original novel and previous adaptations. Its hammed up for your viewing pleasure and that will be what makes or breaks it for viewers who may be looking for something with a bit more weight.
Death On The Nile is released in cinemas on February 11th