Death on the Nile is clearly the worst film in the trilogy directed by Kenneth Branagh and I’ll explain why

Death on the Nile is clearly the worst film in the trilogy directed by Kenneth Branagh and I’ll explain why
Death on the Nile is clearly the worst film in the trilogy directed by Kenneth Branagh and I’ll explain why

Originally, Kenneth Branagh is an actor-director-screenwriter from the classical British school. A lover of Shakespearean dramaturgy who started on the stage. His first films (Henry V, A lot of noise for nothing, Hamlet) logically often take this path. But he is also a modern and eclectic man, just as interested in action as historical films or science fiction. His regular roles with Christopher Nolan attest to this. Since the 2010s, except All is true and the very personal Belfast, the Northern Irish director especially has fun on a much more general public level, notably with his passion for Hercule Poirot. First there was The crime of the Orient Express in 2017. Then Death on the Nile And Mystery in Venice. Without making an impression, this trilogy and new modernized adaptation of Agatha Christie’s work holds up. However, with a weak link: the second.

Kenneth Branagh and his Hercule Poirot, more human than detective

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It was one of the more than questionable choices in The crime of the Orient Express. In his rereading, Kenneth Branagh opted for a Hercule Poirot who was much more tortured than we know him in the novels. Much more human in short. However, this is not necessarily what we ask of him. This excess of characterization of the hero is unfortunately accentuated in Death on the Nile. Let’s take the introductory scene, where we discover a young Poirot in the trenches during the First World War. Although very beautiful (it is undoubtedly the most successful of the film), what is it really for? Not much. The filmmaker thus demonstrates that he chose to focus his camera on the man, and not the genius investigator. The numerous sequences where he talks about his feelings to his friend Bouc (Tom Bateman) emphasize this bias. So much so that the investigation seems relegated to the background.

The poorly developed characters Death on the Nile

Let’s talk about the investigation. Difficult for one whodunit (in other words a mystery film) to implement the murder only halfway through the film. Which was also the case in the previous version, you will tell me (but the way was not the same). This very long exposition does not fundamentally serve the story, once again too focused on Hercule Poirot. The gallery of characters, so characteristic of Agatha Christie’s novels, is there. But apart from the central love triangle, the protagonists are too little developed for us to become attached to them… Characters have been added to the original material without adding much. The casting suffers precisely from the comparison with the Death on the Nile from 1978, or even the other two Kenneth Branagh films. Let’s move on from the latter, who always does a bit much under the mustache of the famous detective, while being too serious compared to his elder Peter Ustinov. Exit Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Jane Birkin, or David Niven. Gal Gadot or Armie Hammer display the limits of their too often mono-expressive game. Emma Mackey brings a certain intensity to her character. For the rest, it lacks panache.

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What is Kenneth Branagh’s direction worth in Death on the Nile ?

Far from the refreshingly horrific tone of Mystery in Venicethis new version of Death on the Nile plunges us into a false rhythm, neither really unpleasant nor exciting. The crime of the Orient Express could count on the tight framework of the closed session, very useful for the action, from start to finish. Here the mechanics are slow to kick in for a very classic investigation in which we ultimately struggle to follow the bread crumbs and other clues. Behind the camera, Kenneth Branagh abuses green backgrounds (the river, the ruins, etc.) for a film of this type with a staging that is so unnecessarily sophisticated that it becomes disembodied. This is very unfortunate for a man who knows Hercule Poirot, having read all of the novels before adapting The crime of the Orient Express. Fortunately, he then makes up for it with Mystery in Venice. The most unexpected of its three parts. However, once again exploring the psyche of the famous mustachioed investigator (aging and reclusive), he manages to confront him with his certainties and contradictions with an investigation on the borders of reality. While captivating with a work by Agatha Christie little known to the general public.

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