[Screen It]


(2022) (Kenneth Branagh, Gal Gadot) (PG-13)

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Dramatic Thriller: A world-renowned detective tries to solve a murder that takes place onboard a luxury paddle steamer that's headed down the Nile River.

It's 1937 and famed private detective Hercule Poirot (KENNETH BRANAGH) is enjoying a variety of desserts at a nightclub where young Rosalie Otterbourne (LETITIA WRIGHT) demands upfront money before her jazz singer aunt, Salome (SOPHIE OKONEDO) performs. Rosalie is her manager and previously went to school with Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle (GAL GADOT), a wealthy socialite who's arrived to meet her friend Jacqueline de Bellefort (EMMA MACKEY). The latter is pleased to announce that she's to marry the dashing Simon Doyle (ARMIE HAMMER), but once he and Linnet lock eyes and dance together, it's love at first sight.

Not long after that, those two are getting married in Egypt with a honeymoon cruise down the Nile River to follow. Among those invited to attend are Linnet's cousin and family lawyer, Andrew Katchadourian (ALI FAZAL); her rich godmother, Marie Van Schuyler (JENNIFER SAUNDERS) and her longtime nurse and companion, Mrs. Bowers (DAWN FRENCH); aristocratic doctor Linus Windlesham (RUSSELL BRAND) who was once romantically involved with Linnet; Poirot's young friend, Bouc (TOM BATEMAN) and his romantically skeptical mother, Euphemia (ANNETTE BENING); and Linnet's maid, Louise Bourget (ROSE LESLIE).

Joining them is Poirot himself who's on vacation in Egypt when he runs into the wedding party. Linnet asks him to accompany them as personal protection from her former friend turned obsessive stalker, Jacqueline, who's shown up for the festivities. Once on the river, it's not long before someone is murdered and it's up to Poirot to interrogate everyone for possible motives and then identify the killer.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

My wife and I belong to a dinner group (associated with my wife's former workplace) and we get together every other month, alternating between our six homes. Recently, one couple suggested that we spice things up a bit -- no, not that way -- by taking the group on a getaway trip. Various locales were suggested, and most sounded great except for one that most of the group unofficially vetoed. And that was a cruise down the Nile River in a sailboat.

Beyond the thought of meandering down the Egyptian river sounding slow and hot -- there's even a tugboat to pull you along should the winds not do the trick (cue the diesel fumes wafting into the unairconditioned vessel) -- there's the fact that the government at that time wasn't exactly stable and the Nile is reportedly one of the polluted rivers in the world.

All of which made the "you can even take a dip in the water" suggestion part of the deal killer. That and the crocodiles, although we were told some parts of the river move too swiftly for those huge reptiles (which made some of our collective eyebrows rise). But the one thing we didn't consider was the possibility that a murder or two might occur during the voyage.

You know, as is often the case in the works of Agatha Christie including -- yes, you guessed it -- "Death on the Nile." First published in 1937, the work centered around her favorite detective, Hercule Poirot, trying -- natch -- to solve a homicidal mystery while traveling past Egyptian ruins and such.

That novel inspired the 1978 film of the same name that featured an all-star cast including the likes of Peter Ustinov, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, George Kennedy, Jack Warden, and David Niven.

Now, forty-four years later, we have the remake of the same name that serves as the follow-up to 2017's "Murder on the Orient Express" where Kenneth Branagh stepped into the shoes of the legendary Belgian detective who once again finds himself having to solve a murder or two.

And just like that film, its cinematic predecessor, and the books on which they're all based, the story -- courtesy of screenwriter Michael Green who makes some changes to the characters here and there -- follows the well-worn formula as follows.

A group of attractive and well-dressed characters -- played by the likes of Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Letitia Wright, and others -- end up aboard a luxury paddlewheel steamer on a honeymoon cruise down the titular river where a homicide takes place. Poirot then begins interrogating the passengers one by one, exposing their possible motives and giving viewers just enough information to help them guess the identity of the perp(s).

Most, if not all, of my likes and dislikes of "MOTOE" also apply here, as it looks great in every visual sense and has a definite "they don't make 'em like they used to" aura about it that Branagh (serving again as director) captures. But, and notwithstanding the story giving the detective some additional backstory to make him come off as more human (which works), there are too many suspects and not enough time to explore them to the fullest engaging fashion (this and its immediate predecessor would have made great seasons one and two for a streaming series).

That said, and maybe because it played out before me at the right time (especially early in 2022 where the other film offerings have not been outstanding), I found it more entertaining (in a whodunit sense) than last time around.

All of which means I enjoyed it enough to give it a recommendation, something I'm not sure would have happened with our proposed -- and hopefully murder-free -- sailboat cruise down the river of Egyptian gods of old. "Death on the Nile" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed February 3, 2022 / Posted February 11, 2022

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