Kenneth Branagh‘s latest Agatha Christie adaptation — Death on the Nile (2022) — is in theaters now and comes to HBO Max and Hulu on March 29. I was visiting mom and she wanted to see it, so off I trotted to an actual movie theater for the first time in about 2 years! Is the movie watchable? Sure, but it’s heavy handed. The costumes are decent with your run-of-the-mill “we wanted to modernize it/the 1930s are so modern/we wanted to resonate with a modern audience,” which, OVER IT.
I can only really compare it with the 1978 film, since I’ve never read any Agatha Christie. Luckily, I’m pretty good at forgetting the details of these murder mysteries, so while I had a good guess pretty early on as to who-done-it, I didn’t remember specifics. In general, sure, the film felt much more up-to-date, but it was really, REALLY dark. For example, the film wastes a bunch of time on Poirot’s backstory, including a ludicrous reason for his overly flamboyant mustachios. Poirot is also shown as much more mercenary and narcissistic in this film as compared to Branagh’s (also dark) Murder on the Orient Express.
I liked the story and performances of the central love triangle — Gal Gadot is Linnet, a wealthy socialite who has just married the ex-fiancé of a good friend, played by Emma Mackey. Mackey was really the standout performance for me, as she gets to radiate lust, love, and vengeance and she does it all with ease.
Some actors/characters felt wasted. I was confused why Russell Brand, of all people, was cast a super-serious doctor; Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones) was NOT given much to do as Linnet’s secretary; and I felt like Dawn French was only included because she played the companion to Jennifer Saunders. Ali Fazal as Linnet’s cousin should completely ask for his money back. That being said, Saunders was hilarious as a wealthy communist, Annette Bening played a good controlling mother, and Letitia Wright was an excellent super-organized manager with some real depth.
The film’s handling of race and ethnicity left something to be desired. The only Egyptians are complete background, servant-y characters; and when it comes out that a cross-racial English/American relationship has been going on, everyone acts like the racial difference basically isn’t there and all concerns are really about social class. Yes, the Brits had their own nuances around race that were sometimes different from Americans, but that doesn’t mean the Brits weren’t a racist culture.
The costumes were designed by Paco Delgado (Les Misérables, The Danish Girl, Jungle Cruise) and you will be SHOCKED, SHOCKED I TELL YOU when Branagh’s goal was to modernize the costumes. LE SIGH. In an entirely-too-short featurette on the costumes, Delgado said,
“Ken wanted to do a movie that was appealing, in the sense that it doesn’t look like a reproduction of the period, taking a much more contemporary approach.”
Luckily, it’s not ALL 2022. According to an interview with Vogue, Delgado consulted the Vogue archives:
“The ’30s were such an incredibly modern period fashion-wise — much more so than the conservative ’40s. The quality and draping of the fabrics is really what makes the clothes feel ‘of that time’, and I was lucky enough to have an entire team dyeing and cutting and embroidering with me to make sure our pieces were as realistic as possible” (’30s Glamour & Megawatt Tiffany Diamonds: An Investigation Into The ‘Death On The Nile’ Costumes).
For Gadot’s Linnet, Delgado wanted to emphasize her Hollywood-style glamour and fragility:
“I used transparent fabrics where you can see the skin, which makes her more vulnerable. These silks and chiffons are really nice to the body but Linnet doesn’t have the armor to fight against this dangerous world” (“Death on the Nile” Costume Designer Paco Delgado on Killer Cruise Wear).
Linnet’s (Gadot) hair was slightly longer than others, which according to hair designer Wakana Yoshihara, was meant to show her as “an elegant trendsetter. She was moving towards 1940s looks and had the longest hair of the cast — she was ahead of her time” ‘Death on the Nile’: Paco Delgado on Creating Gal Gadot’s Wealthy Look and That Tiffany’s Diamond).
For Emma Mackey as the jilted lover, she’s often in red, demonstrating her passion and desire for revenge. Delgado said, “She’s almost aggressive, following Linnet and her husband to Egypt. We wanted to show this passion in a very direct way by dressing Emma in red” (“Death on the Nile” Costume Designer Paco Delgado on Killer Cruise Wear).
Looking at some of the other characters…
Have you seen this version of Death on the Nile yet?
Not going to rush out to see this. 1. David Suchet. A quarter-century of playing the role has made it rather difficult for anyone else. 2.Branagh. His work tends to be either brilliant, like Belfast, or just misses. The other problem is that with such a well-known story, there are really no surprises. And the usual “relatable” costuming…
I grew up with David Suchet. I respect Ken (and enjoy many of his films) but I’m a Suchet loyalist. The Mystery! Poirot series in general heavily influenced my personal taste. I’m an Art Deco fiend.
The last murder is a bit of a shock and not what you expect.
I had recently seen the Suchet version when I saw this one, which suffered greatly by comparison. The backstory was ridiculous. Changing the characters vocations (nightclub singer for novelist, for example) served no purpose. And mixing Black and White travelers together comfortably seemed really fake (back in the day, Brits were still calling Blacks and Middle Easterners “wogs” and would have had nothing but contempt for them). Armie Hammer has always given me the creeps and in light of recent scandals, he creeped me out even more. I never thought he was much of an actor and he was out of his league.
Don’t get me started on the Moustache. It was insane in “Murder on the Orient Express” and it’s still insane here. Nobody is going to beat David Suchet for a Poiret portrayal any more than anyone will be better than Jeremy Brett playing Sherlock Holmes.
Branagh has done some great films (yes, “Belfast” is one). THIs is NOT one of htem
I absolutely HATED KB’s version of Murder on the Orient Express, so I’m going to give this a pass.
I did see it when it came out, I remembered who the killer was but not how they’d done it. And I agree 100% about Branagh as Poirot, it’s ridiculous how he’s trying to enlarge his part with so much backstory (don’t get me started on the mustache).
I recently reread the book and re-watched the 1978 movie with Peter Ustinov. Both film versions condense and combine characters, not particularly well. I think Gal Gadot’s silver dress is an homage to the silver gown worn by Lois Childs in the 1978 version, which is pretty stunning, though I think Gal is a superior actress to Lois. I haven’t seen the David Suchet version so I should try and find it.
I did like the cinematography in this version which is pretty stunning, and I’m glad I saw it on a big screen. Not a great movie overall but I liked it better than the Murder on the Orient Express remake of a few years ago which I loathed except for some really good tracking shots of the train. The 1970s original is just about perfect, one of my favorite films of all time.
Those first 2 purses are totally Now, not Then; so annoying. The last 2 sported by Saunders and French are better.
I foolishly thought “how modern can a purse be?”, then scrolled up and… I think my little sister has the same purse Gal Gadot is rocking lol. It is definitely so now
The whole film is looking so much fake with the poor settings – that I prefered to give the old version with David Niven and Peter Ustinov another try.
I was so much surprised how poor the first of Branagh’s Poirot-adaptions was looking that I had little hopes for “Death on the Nile”. Just compare real trains and landscape in “Once upon a time in the West” to that modern “in computer built up” settings. To fill the gap left by poor pictures you maybe can change the story to make it more “interesting” for the audience today…
The beard of Branagh is just so much creepy for me and I can not understand that a actor/director of masterpieces can produce such films. Therefore I agree about what mmcquown wrote.
I’ll see it, I’m not a Poirot fan at all. I never cared for the detective. I prefered the Beresfords then Miss Marple of the Christie Detectives. I’ve never read the books so it’s not a problem with me.
Tommy and Tuppence 5eva!
Gem nerd here. The yellow jewel featured above is a replica of the Tiffany Yellow Diamond. That stone is one of the biggest of its kind, and associated with lots of famous people. Frock lovers might be interested to know Audrey Hepburn posed with the Tiffany Yellow for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” publicity shots.
More here: https:// press. tiffany. com/ the-legendary-tiffany-diamond-stars-in-20th-century-studios-death-on-the-nile/ (remove spacing)
I’m another Jewellery need, but I’m waiting for it to show up on Amazon Prime. Sure Gal is beautiful beyond belief, but I’m not a fan of ‘let’s make the costumes relatable school’ of thought. Sure Sophe Okonego is a plus. She’s terrific as the head Aes Sedai in Wheel of Time, but it sounds like Ken tried too hard for relatable.
David Suchet’s version is the gold standard (filmed on the SS Sudan – the crew speaks of him fondly), with Ustinov a fun second. This looks horrid.
Linnet’s secretary probably ges nothing to do because She Isn’t In The Book and there’s no role for her in the plot. The Egyptian staff is invisible in the book too as they are neither victims nor suspects and luckily for them see nothing useful. The alcoholic has been Mrs. Otterbourne doesn’t seem like the most flattering character to race swap.
I HATE it when they do the long hair in the 30s, but this specific length is something you do see at the very, very end of the 1930s, which cannot possibly be when this is set, because of the war. Also, they styled it very differently, but whatever.
I looked it up and the book is supposedly set in 1935, when long hair was basically the length all these other characters have. What is WITH this fear of short hair???
Sorry, it’s 1937, which is still too early, but they got me on a technicality, I guess. Still, why not just short hair? WHY NOT???
Erg the 1978 one is SO iconic. Before Suchet, we had Ustinov to define Poirot. I honestly think that when KB is in a film and directing it, it consciously or unconsciously becomes far too much about his character, hence the many amazing actors with not much to do.
I really don’t care about Poirot’s backstory. I saw the Peter Ustinov and David Suchet’s. I love both of them for different reasons. I will probably watch this because I don’t have to leave my house and I have HBO Max and Hulu.
I thought that both Branagh’s movies lacked completely the charm and quaintness of their 70s counterparts. CGI is everywhere and I don’t feel any Agatha Christie vibe. This was worst in the Orient Express movie where I had the feeling to watch an action movie.
I agree that Poirot’s backstory was completely irrelevant and ridiculous (as is his French unfortunately…). French&Saunders were no match for Davis and Smith in the 78 version. I liked the three main actors’ performance though, especially that of Mackey.
Suchet is Poirot and that’s that, but perhaps it’s been long enough since I’ve read Christie or seen the tv show (or movies), because I enjoyed Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. I wouldn’t say it tops other efforts, but I liked it for what it was. My mother loved it, and went to Death on the Nile last Sunday I think. More mystery-reading friends seem to have not liked either. I don’t plan to go to the theater for it, but I’d give it a shot. Giving the mustache a backstory seems bizarre though.
I do highly, highly recommend Belfast, however. And he also directed the 2015 Cinderella, which I adore (it’s too much of a fantasy mash up of eras to fit this blog but it’s fun to spot the different influences).
I will watch this next week on Hulu, but don’t have high hopes for it.
I don’t like the way adaptations insist on making unnecessary changes and inventing new character’s and plotlines. Agatha Christie mysteries are very tightly plotted. Changes mess that up and often create gaping plot holes.
I am conflicted. Sophie Okonedo as a jazz singer sounds amazing but she’s bound to mess up the plot. Mrs. Otterbourne ‘s has been status and alcoholism are major plot points creating a red herring and of course making her the third victim.
It does mess up the plot, but then so does a lot of other stuff. It’s not a good adaptation, and not even satisfying as travel porn.
I’m a big fan of Sophie Okonedo but I’m also a Christie purist. I’d love to see Sophie’s jazz singer but in something else!
I was not a fan of Emma Mackey as Jackie, but I spent a lot of time just wishing that she would style her hair. It was always such a mess.
As I remember it, French is in the 1920s silhouette for plot-related reasons as well, much like Okonedo’s hats. [SPOILER ALERT] Poirot uses the fact that she is wearing out-of-date, but designer clothing to figure out that her family lost their wealth during the crash.
I’ll probably see it. The film “looks” good to me, and I’m enjoy the work of many of these other actors. I saw KB’s version of Murder on the Orient Express and found it to be weird but OK. I’ll watch this one from the comfort of my home. Other than that, I’ve only seen Leticia Wright in Black Panther, and it seems really weird to see with processed hair and/or a wig. Also, from her pics it looks like they did not have a makeup artist who knew how to work on dark skin. But maybe it’s just those particular pics that make it look that way. Oh, and Gal Godot’s bird dress looks AMAZING!!!
In the book Linnet is a sleek, cool blond and Jackie a fiery brunette. But they never are in the screen adaptations. 😟