I like me a good murder mystery, but something about this one just didn’t click for me.
Set a few years after the events of the last film titled Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile follows the continued exploits of the world-famous detective, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), as he attempts to solve yet another murder committed while simply trying to enjoy himself on a day off. Bringing a new cast of characters into the spotlight in Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle (Gal Gadot), her husband Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer), the returning Bouc (Tom Bateman), his mother, Euphemia (Annette Bening), a doctor named Linus Windlesham (Russel Brand), and many more, Hercule’s peaceful trip down the Nile river suddenly turns dire as a passenger is killed aboard in a manner that nobody can immediately figure out. Taking it upon himself to once again solve the case, Hercule is pulled into a situation that turns out to be far more dangerous than he suspected, and quite possibly even one that he will not survive himself.
Though I enjoyed the first adaptation in this Agatha Christie film universe, for the most part, Death on the Nile never quite hit me in the way that Murder on the Orient Express did. From utilizing a similar premise as the last film to adding another round of well-known castings to the proceedings to operating its story with a sense of adventure that’s just barely enough for a film like this to survive on, Death on the Nile as a sequel is most definitely not as well put together as Murder, but still manages to keep a fun sort of entertainment throughout that ultimately ends up making this movie worth your time if you have nothing better to watch.
With Knives Out being the cream of the “whodunnit?” crop as of late, these films sit somewhere in the middle, with their lost potential as solid moviegoing experiences far outweighing the effort put forth in what’s eventually seen onscreen. And although the intentions of this movie are in the right place, some contrived plot elements, a far less interesting core storyline than the previous film, and a setting that’s presented with way more shoddy green-screen effects than I felt comfortable seeing, and Death on the Nile succeeds as an entertaining film at a base level, but can only coast so long on the thrill of figuring out who committed the titular murder otherwise.
Not only is the premise slightly less thrilling than the last, but the setting, while beautiful and unique all its own, doesn’t work quite as well as the snow-capped environment from Murder on the Orient Express, as it feels less intimate of a storytelling space and more like a visual palette cleanser with far less character, leading to an overall look and feel that isn’t as intriguing or foreboding as what came before. Mix in the fact that the ensemble cast simply doesn’t do as much in terms of their storylines and their resulting use in the overarching plot (the random return/re-introduction of Tom Bateman’s character being the prime culprit in that regard), and you have a movie that’s average at best, and forgettably dull at worst.
Although the mystery angle and ensemble cast are both fine enough, this franchise (if that’s a term that can be used for these films at this point) needs some more fine-tuned filmmaking to become something worthy of the universe the creative team is intent on building. I’d like to see the continuation of this series play out over the course of a few more installments, but the overall “meh” quality of Death on the Nile doesn’t bode well for those chances, as it didn’t exactly improve on its predecessor, and if anything, ends up taking the slightest step back instead.