It is safe to say that the Kenneth Branagh version of Agatha Christies’s Death on the Nile has had its fair share of problems. With a release date that has been delayed again and again due to the global pandemic, it has then seen leading man Armie Hammer face allegations of rape and serious sexual misdeeds that could see this being his last film. But Friday finally saw the release of the troubled production, and, as a huge Agatha Christie fan, and with it being Valentine’s Weekend, I had a date night and finally got to have a look at the film we’ve been waiting so long for. And, I have to say that despite many negative reviews, I absolutely loved it.
The story is a love triangle, Linnet Ridgeway, a beautiful heiress, meets with her dear friend Jacqueline in order to give Jacqueline’s penniless fiance Simon a job, but instead Simon and Linnet fall in love and elope to Egypt, leaving Jacqueline jilted and murderous in her pain. Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is in the same Egyptian hotel on a mission of his own, when he is pulled into the wedding party, a party that seems to be comprised of many people with a grudge against the bride. The situation is exasperated further when Jacqueline turns up at the hotel, she has been following the couple as they have honeymooned. Linnet asks Poirot for help in removing the threat of Jacqueline, he suggests that she and Simon go home, but instead they take the wedding party on a paddle steamer trip down the Nile. It is there that a murder takes place.
The 1978 Peter Ustinov version of Death on the Nile is one of my favourite Agatha Christie adaptations. (You can read about it here) It is a glossy, glamorous star studded affair full of faces that deserve the title legend – Bette Davies, Peter Ustinov, Angela Lansbury, Jane Birkin, David Niven…the list goes on and on. Whilst this version isn’t quite as starry, it is a glamorous cast, with stand out performances from Kenneth Branagh, who I think is a great Poirot, a stunning Sophie Okenado as Salome Otterbourne, updating Angela Lansbury’s erotic novelist as a blues singer, and a feisty Leticia Wright as her niece Rosalie. Emma Mackey is a sensual Jacqueline, playing the role far more dangerously than Mia Farrow in the same role, you sort of wonder why Simon would abandon this woman for the beautiful, but blank faced Linnet.
The cinematography is stunning, glorious blue skies, scenery and languid, sweeping shots of the Nile, and an incredible opening scene that shows the ingenuity and intelligence of the young Poirot, and also the back story of his famous moustache. Gal Gadot is introduced in stunning style in a smoky jazz club, a goddess in an incredible silver dress that makes her every inch the most beautiful heiress in the world, and then proceeds to wear a white/cream wardrobe that screams innocence and purity even whilst she has ‘stolen’ her best friends man and basically wrecked her life. It is Jacqueline, the innocent party, who is painted as the scarlet woman in a series of stunning red dresses that make her stand out as a vamp, and maybe indicate that all is not what it seems.
Death on the Nile wont win any awards this season, but it is gloriously entertaining, beautiful to look at, and, for me gives clues to the next adaptation. Poirot talks about retiring to a little village to grow marrows…The Murder of Roger Ackroyd anyone…