Following the events of Murder on the Orient Express (2017), Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) heads to Egypt. Somehow he ends up dragged into the jealousy and threats surrounding newlyweds Simon and Linnet Doyle (Armie Hammer and Gal Godot), the latter – an extremely wealthy heiress – having ‘stolen’ the fiancee of a former friend who is now stalking the pair. Rather than take Poirot’s advice to head home to safety, Simon decides a cruise on the river Nile is far enough away from danger. How wrong could he be?!
It seems impossible to read – or indeed write – about this movie without mentioning the controversary surrounding it, or rather, around Armie Hammer. Accused of some very unpleasant behaviour and practically unbelievable fetishes, DotN was delayed by both pandemic and waiting for the furore to die down a bit. Still, Hammer is all but cut from the trailers – so it’s a surprise to find how prominent his character’s role in the movie is. So, choose for yourself if the scandal makes the watch unpalatable, or if you can ignore it long enough to not spend the movie squirming in your seat.
Personally I find the actor bland enough – true again here – to just forget him in favour of the rest of the movie’s spectacle. For, despite a hugely starry cast (Annette Bening, Sophie Okonedo, Letitia Wright, Russell Brand, French and Saunders!) the main draw here is once again the setting: this time the glorious vistas of 1930s Egypt. From the Pyramids to Abu Simbel, and the luxurious yacht, it all looks simply divine darling. It becomes something of a ‘Sunday afternoon movie’: one that I can watch for the richness of it all, even if the rest is less than perfect.
I did feel, however, that unlike the previous adaptation (MotOE), the mystery itself is better handled here – almost as if they don’t fully expect every viewer to already know the outcome. Of course it helps that I don’t remember ever seeing a version of this before, or reading the original Agatha Christie novel – shame on me 😉 It’s still very guessable, especially after 80-odd years of imitators, but I was still wrong on a few hypotheses and thought most of the build up to the big reveal was handled well. Every character is a suspect, for varying reasons, right to the end. To be honest, I thought the acting more adequate than outstanding, especially given some of the cast. But to be fair, none are written to stand out and no one outshines the rest.
There are some deviations from the source material, combining characters for example, and particularly an opening flashback with some of Poirot’s history. It gives a glimpse of character, but is perhaps overshadowed by being an origin story for that famous moustache – not that we really needed to know? I also wasn’t really convinced by the hints of awkward romance for the detective; like the newly-created tragic backstory carried from the first movie, it just didn’t add much for me.
Overall, it was a decent adaptation, but one that works more on looking lush than anything spectacular in storytelling or acting. And yes, there is still a touch of the ‘ick’ about a certain actor’s involvement. Take from that what you will.
Released: 11th February 2022
Viewed: 8th April 2022
Running time: 127 minutes
My rating: 7/10