It was already going badly for Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Death on the Nile thanks to Covid. Then there were the seemingly endless controversies that plagued the cast. Clearly, somebody was trying to tell him not to bother. I mean somebody other than me. After the dull and forgettable Murder on the Orient Express, I wasn’t exactly counting down the days for this to be released. It doesn’t help that I think this Christie book is overrated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book and I do think the twist is cool. I just don’t think it’s one of her top 5. It might be popular but that doesn’t always mean something is good. So, the thought of Branagh attaching his fake moustache for this wasn’t exactly keeping me going through lockdown.
And that was before I’d even seen the trailer. Once that trash was released, I knew that this wasn’t going to be for me. I hated every second of it. Not only did it prove that Branagh was going to make it all about Poirot but he was also going to ramp up the drama for no reason. I know that cosy crime doesn’t really stand up against Gone Girl style thrillers but that doesn’t mean it’s not thrilling. Contemporary thrillers have no sense of mystery. Something Agatha Christie really knew about.
Kenny B keeps talking about how much respect he has for Agatha Christie but, after seeing this film, I find that hard to believe. If he loved her so much why would he feel the need to try and improve upon her? Why does he think he can rewrite this story better than she did? It’s ridiculous. I understand why he made the decision to give Poirot more context and backstory. It’s his vanity. The rest of it? None of the additions to the story make sense. And this isn’t one of those “the book is always better” bookish rants. It’s the fact that none of the new additions get enough time to work. In fact, nobody but Kenny B really gets any time to make an impression.
If you know the story well then you’ll be okay. You’ll have a vague idea of why everyone hates the victim. If you don’t then you might never really know. This film is the opposite of show don’t tell. Actually, that’s not true because it doesn’t really want to tell you either. There’s no real investigation here. You watch as Poirot talks to the suspects for a few seconds before deciding if they’re innocent or not. It’s stupid. How did we have enough time for the introduction set in WW1 but not enough to properly introduce each suspect?
And why? We don’t need to know about Poirot’s life? It doesn’t matter. This ridiculous need to humanise great detectives like Hercule and Sherlock Holmes is such a terrible modern thing. I hate to break it to you Kenny but Poirot isn’t the main character of these stories. Yes, he drives the plot along but, as a character, he doesn’t matter. He is there to work his little grey cells and that’s it. Learning more about him as a man doesn’t change his abilities. In fact, I’d say the less we know about him the better. Yes, you want to play him and yes you want screentime. But what about the story? Constant flashbacks to his past ruin the pace of the story and remove any potential tension that you could have created?
It’s so cringey. All of the points that make this an interesting story have been sacrificed so Kenny B can get his face on screen for longer. There is absolutely no fun or joy here. It’s hard to engage with the story because there are so many bizarre choices. The opening dance sequence is creepy. There is no chemistry between any of the main cast. French and Saunders are horribly underused. The weird age difference between all of the characters is distracting. There is a blatant and pointless attempt to shoehorn in contemporary social issues but it’s all very superficial.
In fact, the whole thing is superficial. Somebody needs to tell Branagh that an all-star cast and excessive CGI aren’t enough. Christie is beloved for her storytelling. That’s an afterthought here. Is it the worst thing ever? No. There are some fine moments and some of the cast are good if underused. It’s just boring and over-the-top. The direction and editing are weird. Who keeps letting Kenny B direct these things? After the weird shots in Murder on the Orient Express to even weirder shots here. I knew that I wasn’t going to enjoy this but I didn’t think I’d hate it this much.