We’re in that early part of the year where most movies hitting the big screen will be forgotten by the end of the year. This isn’t always the case (Black Panther, Get Out), and Death on the Nile looked like it had a chance to be an early year standout. Unfortunately, it falls into the forgettable category and will leave people wondering, “what if it had a better script?” We saw this back in 2017 when director Kenneth Branagh put out Murder on the Orient Express and this is no different in terms of just being another average whodunit.
From the beginning, it’s obvious Death on the Nile had a rough time in the editing room. It bounces all over the place with uneven pacing and spends too much time on aspects it shouldn’t, and not enough on the important aspects. Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is one of the world’s greatest detectives, and his character is introduced nicely. He appears very particular and observant (like in the previous film) as he reads into an encounter between Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot), Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer), and Jacqueline de Bellafort (Emma Mackey). This particular interaction eventually leads to our stay as Simon leaves his current fiancé Jacqueline for the prestigious Linnet. Six weeks later, they get married in in Egypt, coincidentally at the same time that Hercule is on vacation visiting the Pyramids. Jacqueline has been stalking Simon and Linnet everywhere they go, fueled by her jealousy, heartbreak, and hatred for what they both did to her.
The choppiness of the first act is smoothed out a little when our characters board a luxurious cruise ship to embark on a tour of the Nile River. This part of the movie is where its potential shines, as other characters are then introduced that will ultimately be part of the “whodunnit” mystery. As expected, Jacqueline, or “Jackie”, follows Simon and Linnet onto the cruise ship and continues to be a thorn in their side. Jackie appears to be ready to escalate the situation with violence if Simon does not come crawling back to her. After some time, without spoiling anything, an incident happens and our story is finally off and running. From here, it’s a mix of good and bad due to an inconsistent script.
The events after the incident are filled with the best parts of the movie and several moments where the script thinks it’s smarter than it actually is. Hercule spends his time investigating what happened and questioning everyone on the boat. This is where the movie thrives. There are some interesting and witty interactions between him and the occupants as he tries to get to the bottom of it. Where it falls apart though is after a few of Hercule’s interrogations when it gets fairly repetitive and comes off as a Knives Outrip-off. It would have benefited to being its own movie instead of trying to be something it’s not.
One thing Death on the Nile has going for it are the performances. The cast is great and their chemistry is undeniable. The ensemble isn’t the best that has been in a whodunnit, but it works overall. If the script and editing were better, this could have been a nice February surprise. There’s probably a director’s cut that flushes out the first act much better, but who knows if we will ever see that.
Overall, there’s no need to rush to the theater to see Death on the Nile. It isn’t a complete waste of time, but it could have been so much better. At best, it’s a guilty pleasure or something you would put on as background noise. However, Kenneth Branagh does not offer much of an improvement with this sequel.