Review: Branagh’s back as Poirot in ‘Death on the Nile”

Kenneth Branagh in Death on the Nile / 20th Century Studios

Poor ol’ Hercule Poirot. The famous Belgian detective can’t go anywhere without becoming embroiled in a murder mystery. I guess that’s why the Agatha Christie character is so beloved?

In this latest outing, the second big-screen adaptation of “Death on the Nile,” Kenneth Branagh is back again to direct and star in this follow-up to his 2017 film “Murder on the Orient Express.”

While the film follows the same familiar who-done-it formula as the previous movie, Branagh’s current production has a bit more juice, and a snappier pace despite the fact the movie clocks in at a bit over two hours. Not to say, this film moves swiftly. It doesn’t, but unlike the first film, I never found myself bored as the story unraveled.

Perhaps the fact that Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green open the movie with a fun black-and-white prologue set during World War I that happens to explain why our heroic detective wears such a distinctive and dashing mustache won me over?

Who doesn’t love an origin story. Or maybe, Branagh just made a better movie this time around?

On for the ride again is Tom Bateman as Bouc, Poirot’s confidant, but this time Annette Bening is also on board as Euphemia, a renowned painter and Bouc’s mother.

Gal Gadot in Death on the Nile / 20th Century Studios

Anyway the film set in 1937 centers around a juicy but deadly romantic triangle that sets our course for murder and suspense on what was to be a honeymoon cruise down the Nile for wild and wealthy heiress Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle (Gal Gadot), who has married the rough and tumble Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer). Incidentally Doyle ditched his sweetheart Jaqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey) to woo and marry her best friend, the heiress.

Think you know the score? Don’t move too fast.

There’s a half a dozen other characters with the mood and motive for murder such as the jazz singer Salome (Sophie Okonedo) and her manager/niece Rosalie (Letitia Wright). What about gentleman doctor Linus, (a slicked-back Russel Brand) Linnet’s one-time fiancee?

Communist socialite Marie Van Schuyler (Jennifer Saunders), her nurse Mrs. Bowers (Dawn French) and Linnet’s cousin Andrew (Ali Fazal) also have their own reasons for foul play.

I enjoy a good procedural, and this one works. Branagh is engaging as the detective even if his exposition drops can be a bit tedious. It’s part of the form and charm of the mysteries that made Christie so popular with so many readers over the years. Plus, I did get the feel the cast had a great time making this movie.

The film is a bit stagey with obvious CGI effects scattered throughout, but that is less annoying than charming to me.

While I wouldn’t say the movie had me riveted to my seat, the film is an enjoyable march to the finish line. Branagh is charming in the role and his interactions with Bening, in particular, made the movie more than worthwhile.

The movie was originally intended to open in 2019, but was held back because of COVID-19 as well as a controversy over criminal allegations against Hammer.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 7 min.
Grade: B-

  New in Local Theaters

Death on the Nile (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hr. 7 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Malco Pinnacle, Skylight

Marry Me (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 52 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne, Skylight

Jockery (watch trailer) / (R) 1 hr. 33 min / AMC Fiesta Square

The Beatles Get Back — The Rooftop Concert IMAX (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 1 hr. 4 min. / Malco Razorback

The Wolf and the Lion (watch trailer) / (PG) 1 hr. 33 min. / Malco Pinnacle

Academy Award Nominations And Early Predictions

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominations for the 2022 Academy Awards on Tuesday. The ceremony to announce the winners will be on March 27.

Here is the list of nominations in the major categories and which film or artist I would vote for if I were an Academy member. These aren’t my predictions for the winners. I’ll offer those up the Friday before the ceremony, but rather my personal favorite from each category.

Best Picture

Nominees: Belfast, Coda, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, West Side Story

My pick: This is tough. I enjoyed most of these movies, but at the moment, I’d go with “Coda.” It’s streaming on Apple TV+.

Actor in a Leading Role

Nominees: Javier Bardem in Being the Ricardos; Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog; Andrew Garfield in Tick, Tick…Boom!; Will Smith in King Richard; Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth

My pick: Andrew Garfield in “Tick, Tick…Bom!” The entire movie hinges on his performance, and Garfield’s great in the role that allows him to show off a broad array of talent.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Ciarán Hinds in Belfast; Troy Kotsur in Coda; Jesse Plemons in The Power of the Dog; J.K. Simmons in Being the Ricardos; Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Power of the Dog

My pick: J.K. Simmons is always excellent, and he stands out again as cranky William Frawley, who played Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy.”

Actress in a Leading Role

Nominees: Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Faye; Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter; Penélope Cruz in Parallel Mothers; Nicole Kidman in Being the Ricardos; Kristen Stewart in Spencer

My pick: I love Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos.”

Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominees: Jessie Buckley in The Lost Daughter; Ariana DeBose in West Side Story; Judi Dench in Belfast; Kirsten Dunst in The Power of the Dog; Aunjanue Ellis in King Richard

My pick: Ariana DeBose gave the slam-dunk performance of year as Anita in “West Side Story,” a movie that I thought was a bit stale, but, man, was she ever great!

Animated Feature Film

Nominees: Encato, Flee, Luca, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Raya and the Last Dragon

My pick: “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” was my favorite animated movie of the year. It had all the humor and antics of old Looney Tunes shorts with a great deal of heart thrown in for good measure.?


Nominees: Dune — Greig Fraser; Nightmare Alley — Dan Laustsen; The Power of the Dog — Ari Wegner; The Tragedy of Macbeth — Bruno Delbonnel; West Side Story — Janusz Kaminski

My pick: This is a terrifically tough category. All of these films looked absolutely great. I wouldn’t argue if any of them won. So tough, but I would go with Brunno Delbonnel for “The Tragedy of MacBeth.” The way he shot that movie wasn’t just interesting but it was also so integral to film’s storytelling.


Nominees: Belfast — Kenneth Branagh; Drive My Car — Ryusuke Hamaguchi; Licorice Pizza — Paul Thomas Anderson; The Power of the Dog — Jane Campion; West Side Story — Steven Spielberg

My pick: I would like to cast a write-in vote for Sian Heder, who directed “Coda,” but among the nominated choices, I’d go with Jane Campion for “The Power of the Dog.”