February 12, 2022

Movie Review: Death on the Nile (20th Century, 2022)


There have been three movie adaptations of Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel Death on the Nile. The first was in 1978 starring Peter Ustinov as the legendary Hercule Poirot, followed by the gold standard version starring the quintessential Poirot portrayed by David Suchet in 2004. 

In 2022, we have Kenneth Branagh attempting to salvage his disastrous portrayal of the Belgian sleuth in his adaptation and remake of Murder on the Orient Express. When I saw the publicity surrounding the release of his adaptation of the novel, I was skeptical. 


So when I saw that Branagh remade one of my favorite movies, I was skeptical – given his past, I was not in the mood to give him the benefit of the doubt. Then, I thought, “Okay, I have personally been to all of the venues of this novel – let’s see how he interprets this.”


Flashback: In 1987, I was in war-torn southern Iraq (don’t ask) driving north of al-Basrah when I can across an old airfield. There was a vintage tri-motor aircraft parked on the side of the hangar bay and I thought to myself, “This is an Agatha Christie moment.” It haunts me to this day.


Years later, I was in Egypt (again, don’t ask), and took the opportunity to visit the historical sites in Aswan and Abu Simbel. Agatha Christie wrote her novel in 1937 while staying at the First Cataract hotel in Aswan. I stayed at the same hotel, which by then had become the Pullman Hotel, and visited Philae Island as seen in the movie – what great venues. I understand these were recreated in a movie studio in England, but the producers did an excellent job. (See my photos of Aswan from the late-1990s)


 To the critics that will claim that the scenes what is purported to be Abu Simbel are not accurate, remember that prior to the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1960, these archeological treasures were rescued from the resultant rise of the water level and the creation of Lake Nasser.


What most of us have visited are the relocated actual monuments. (See my photos of Abu Simbul from the late 1990’s)

I watched the Branagh version on an XD screen, then came home and watched the 2004 David Suchet version to make a comparison. Branagh in Murder on the Orient Express and this adaptation of Murder on the Nile was like night and day – Branagh has completely changed his portrayal of Hercule Poirot from a rigid automaton to an actual likeable character with flaws and personal introspections.


I like the updating of a 1937 period novel to the 21st Century – the adaptation is well done, with maybe the exception of the gay couple (no spoiler alert here). It works well for a story told in the 1920s.


Go see it – immerse yourself in the minimal suspension of disbelief. Kenneth Branagh is totally believable as Hercule Poirot. He may not be the quintessential Poirot as portrayed by David Suchet, but it’s a fast-moving and enjoyable two hours.