A movie to die for: “Death on the Nile” review

by Vishnu Potharaju (’24) | March 21, 2022

The past year has been a big year for murder mystery fans. From HBO’s TV adaptation of One of Us Is Lying to Selena Gomez’s latest role in Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building, murder mystery has remained a popular genre in today’s television and movies. This culminates in the latest murder mystery masterpiece: Death on the Nile, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh. Based on Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel, Death on the Nile follows Hercule Poirot, a renowned detective, as he deciphers the various mysteries and suspicious events aboard the Karnak ship. Surrounded by wealthy men and women, Poirot begins to realize that each person has a lot more secrets than they originally let on. 

The story revolves around Linnet Ridgeway’s (Gal Gadot) engagement to Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) and the events they encounter during their relationship. After their marriage, the two are constantly followed by Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey), Doyle’s obsessive ex-girlfriend and Ridgeway’s former best friend. As the newlyweds attempt to celebrate their marriage in Egypt, they are once again tracked down by de Bellefort. To escape this unfortunate situation, they board a ship with their friends and detective Poirot in order to salvage their vacation and escape their stalker. However, the two begin to realize that even on the boat, they are still unsafe. 

Like all great murder mysteries, this story is rounded out by its stellar supporting actors, who provide us with a slew of murder suspects. They range from blues duo Rosalie and Salome Otterbourne, Doctor Linus Windlesham, Ridgeway’s cousin and lawyer Andrew Katchadourian, Ridgeway’s servant Louise Bourget, Ridgeway’s godmother Marie Van Schuyler, Van Schuyler’s assistant Mrs. Bowers, Ridgeway’s friend Bouc, and Bouc’s mother. Each character has a conflict with love and money, which also gives them motive for murder in this story. The movie carefully focuses on each person as the viewer gets closer and closer to figuring out who committed the murder. 

What makes Death on the Nile stand out as a murder mystery is its pacing. Murder mysteries tend to speed through setups in order to get to the actual murder and the solving of the case, which generally works. However, this film takes its time in the first act, setting up every character and establishing what the viewer doesn’t know about them yet, before even getting to the murder, which takes place at almost the halfway mark of the movie. Although the initial scenes feel dragged out, they slowly start to come together as we begin to understand who Ridgeway and Doyle truly are, and whom they have surrounded themselves with. Most importantly, this movie keeps the murder victim a mystery, leaving the first major event of the film as a shocking twist. 

From the original murder onwards, the story begins to pick up the pace, matching the frantic attempt to unravel the case. As bodies begin to pile up on the ship, and questions mount regarding each passenger’s morality, the pressure on star detective, Poirot, continues to build until the shocking climax. The story leads the viewer towards certain answers while keeping other secrets in its back pocket in order to surprise the viewer later on. 

Another stand-out part of the film was the acting, specifically by Kenneth Branagh, who played Hercule Poirot. With a strong French-Belgian accent and an over-the-top mustache, Branagh plays a wonderfully mysterious character who has a sharp eye and a sharper ear, making for a great protagonist and detective. The story gives good foreshadowing instead of trying to conceal the murderer as much as possible, so the viewer can follow along and try to solve the case with Branagh.
Overall, Death on the Nile is a fun, unique murder mystery that really does leave you guessing until the last moment. Filled with fun easter eggs and quite a few turns, the cast and crew did an exceptional job bringing Agatha Christie’s novel to life, and they all leave us pondering over the same question: how much are you willing to do for love? Or worse, money?

Categories: Entertainment

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