When I reviewed Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate for my last Blog Follower Dedication Review, I figured by writing about a mystery film, I would be giving the readers what they wanted. Well, for my 415 Blog Follower Dedication Review, I decided to give my readers yet another mystery, as both reviews for Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate and Cut, Color, Murder have been quite successful. This time, though, the movie in question is a more current mystery production from the big screen. Recently, my family rented the 2022 adaptation, Death on the Nile. This is the follow-up title to the 2017 adaptation, Murder on the Orient Express. On 18 Cinema Lane, I have gone on record to state I was not a fan of Murder on the Orient Express’ ending. I would say why, but then I’d have to spoil that movie for my readers. With that said, I watched the 2022 film with an open mind, hoping the ending would be better. But was that enough to be stronger than the 2017 title? Join me as I review Death on the Nile!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Sometimes, in ensemble films, there is at least one performance that steals the show. In the case of Death on the Nile, I can’t say that happened, as everyone’s performance was equally strong. So instead, I’m going to talk about how all of the actors and actresses appeared at ease in their roles. Every interaction among the characters seemed natural. Despite the talent being on different journeys in their career, there was a shared chemistry to be found. Gal Gadot did not star in Murder on the Orient Express alongside Kenneth Branagh. However, when they interacted together, it felt like their characters, Linnet and Hercule, had known each other longer than their total screen time. Even actors and actresses whose characters developed their own relationships created a believable on-screen connection. Bouc is a close friend of Hercule’s, but wasn’t brought up or featured in Murder on the Orient Express. Rosalie is a character who made her debut in Death on the Nile. Despite never meeting prior to this film, Rosalie and Bouc formed a romantic relationship that felt genuine. Their bright smiles and warm embraces present the impression they were always meant to be together. It’s interactions like Bouc and Rosalie’s that allowed the overall acting performances to be enjoyable to watch!
An atmospheric setting: The majority of Death on the Nile takes place in Egypt, specifically on the Nile River. Despite a cruise ship being the primary setting for the story, the characters make an excursion to an ancient Egyptian tomb. I’m not sure if Death on the Nile was filmed on-location, on a set, or if everything was green-screened. No matter where the movie was filmed, this particular location was very atmospheric! The structure was covered in a warm sandstone, reflecting the nearby natural landscape. The interior walls were covered in hieroglyphics, only seen through torch light or a flashlight. Before the characters entered the tombs, a long, overhead shot showcased their entry. Even though a structure like this one would likely never be done justice through filmography, it emphasized the scope of a location of that scale!
The Egyptian tombs were not the only atmospheric location in this film. When it comes to the S.S. Karnak, the creative team knew what style they wanted to execute. Boy, did they stick the landing! This ship was posh, bearing the word “elegant” like a badge of honor. The floor was a dark wood, which nicely contrasted the white shiplap walls. Polished glass windows surrounded a grand sitting area, separating patrons into an isolated, beautiful world. Even this aforementioned sitting area was a sight to behold! A detailed oriental rug hosted an island to a set of plush armchairs and a sofa. An elegant bar overlooked both the seating arrangements and the windowed walls, which showcased a perfect view of the river. When I first saw this ship on screen, it looked, to me, like a miniature version of the Titanic.
The use of black and white imagery: Within the mystery genre, black and white imagery has been, in my experience, used rarely in more recently released titles. Even in Death on the Nile, this kind of imagery had a limited incorporation in the movie. But the use of black and white imagery is what stood out to me. This film’s very first scene is captured in black and white. However, it took place during World War I, with the rest of the story taking place in 1937. The distinction of past and present through imagery was clever and visually interesting. This creative tactic was used again later in the story. But this time, color was included to force the audience to focus on that scene’s particular aspects. Like I said about the previous scene, it was an interesting and clever way to use black and white imagery!
What I didn’t like about the film:
The mystery’s delayed start time: One of my least favorite aspects of the mystery genre is when the mystery starts at a later time in the story. This is because I prefer mysteries to be more interactive and get to the heart of the matter sooner. Unfortunately, Death on the Nile did not ask me what I wanted, as the mystery in this movie started at the halfway point. That means the audience was given half a movie to attempt to solve the mystery alongside Hercule. To me, this felt reminiscent of episodes of Murder, She Wrote, where the first half of the story is devoted to the mystery’s build-up. This creative decision caused a much slower start to the movie, as well as a delay in suspense.
A mystery overshadowed by relationship drama: Drama among the characters can work in a mystery’s favor, as it provides possible motives and suspects. Various types of relationships can also create tension within the overall story. But in Death on the Nile, the relationship drama ended up overshadowing the mystery. In fact, it dominated the film’s first half. While characters fell in and out of love, or simply reflected on love, one of my family members asked, “Isn’t someone supposed to get murdered in this story”? I could easily sense this family member’s impatience, as I too felt my good will toward the movie slipping away with each of the characters’ romantic embrace. I have never read any of Agatha Christie’s books, so I’m not sure if these relationships are straight from the source material. However, this part of the story was over-emphasized.
A past detail that doesn’t lead anywhere: Death on the Nile starts with showing Hercule during World War I. In that time, it is revealed he developed romantic feelings for a woman named Katherine. For the rest of the movie, though, this part of the story was never revisited. If Katherine was brought up, Hercule only talked about her in passing. Hercule’s past relationship and his time during World War I getting ignored was confusing to me. Why include these details if there was no plan to follow through on them? It felt like they were added to the story simply for the sake of being there.
My overall impression:
Before I share my overall impression of Death on the Nile, I would like to thank my followers for helping make this review a reality! In four years, my blog has achieved far more success than I ever imagined. All of that is thanks to you. Now, back to sharing my overall impression. While the ending/resolution in Death on the Nile was stronger than Murder on the Orient Express’ was, the overall execution was weaker than the 2017 adaptation. The 2022 film contained a similar flaw to Knives Out: the drama among the characters overshadowed the mystery. Having the mystery start at the movie’s halfway point didn’t help Death on the Nile’s case either. Like Murder on the Orient Express, though, the cast was strong in Death on the Nile. In fact, it was difficult for me to choose a favorite performance. The locations in the 2022 production were atmospheric as well. At the publication of this review, I’m not sure if Kenneth Branagh has plans to adapt more of Agatha Christie’s books. It depends, at this point, if the potential is there.
Overall score: 6.1 out of 10
Have you seen any adaptations of Agatha Christie’s work? Have you read any of Agatha’s books? Don’t hesitate to comment in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!