Kenneth Branagh’s second venture into Agatha Christie’s world of wealthy, smarmy miscreants as “Hercule Poirot”, a savant sleuth, whose flawless deductive reasoning is on full throttle; Branagh’s characterization of the brilliant, damaged, singularly virginal, mustached detective is starched perfection. Poirot has the meatiest role supported by a super cast on a flimsy diet of glamour, jewels and jazz: handsome reprobate, Armie Hammer, “Simon Doyle”, wonderful wonder woman, Gal Gadot, heiress “Linnet Ridgway” and Emma Mackey (my choice for best performance), “Jacqueline de Bellefort,” in triplicate they stun on the dance floor, muscular numbers reminiscent of Fred Astair, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers. Archaic rules/barriers/prejudices are pulverized by stars Tom Bateman and Letitia Wright, lovers of opposite hues, “Bouc” and “Rosalie”; dazzling, sizzling Sophie Okonedo, “Salome” (sets her unparalleled wiles on an unprepared, strikingly, out of his depth, Hercule; Jennifer Saunders is “Marie Van Schuyler” a financially diminished American socialite, missing caviar; her companion “Mrs. Bowers” depicted with aplomb by Dawn French; women harboring a relationship disguised as professional.
The soundtrack, unquestionably sensational; cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos lusciously lures viewers into the enigmatic currents of the Nile, stunningly simulated images of Abu Simbel Temple, Giza, Sphinx, and the limitless, sublime majesty of the Pyramids, pungently pulsate from the screen.
“Death on the Nile” begs comparison with 1978’s version, a myriad, similar to 2021’s roster of well-known thespians: Peter Ustinov (Poirot), Mia Farrow (Jacqueline), Lois Chiles (Linnet), Simon MacCorkind (Simon Doyle), Angela Lansbury “Salome”, Bette Davis and Maggie Smith as twosome “Marie Van Schuyler” and “Mrs. Bowers”. Today’s gimmickry steals subtlety and intensity.
Love, like ether, unseen, powerful, beats at the epicenter of “Death on the Nile”; every protagonist has had their heart torn, brutalized, coddled, sabotaged; Poirot’s telling of his loss pricks the memory of all whose lives have been scared by fate; a reminder “to live with the love they left behind”.