Kenneth Branagh returns both in-front of and behind the camera for Death on the Nile, a sequel to his 2017 film Murder on the Orient Express and adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie novel by the same name. Murder on the Orient Express was met with mild to positive reviews and a rock-solid box office return that was quick to ensure a sequel – and why not? These are easily digestible, contained thrillers that are enticing to A-list actors due to the juicy mystery at its core. Death on the Nile is as equally star-studded as its predecessors, and follows a similar narrative structure – a bunch of strangers stuck on a form of transportation where they are all suspects of murder. The only man who is definitively innocent and impartial to the entire process is Detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) who wants nothing but to bring the killer to justice.
Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express was a fine-enough thriller that will live and die being watched on cable – and I mean that in the least condescending way possible. It’s an incredibly easy watch that scratches the itch that most film fans have; and that’s to be swept away in a mystery for about two hours. Death on the Nile, for better or worse, is entirely the same in my eyes. It’s a completely serviceable experience that is just engaging enough to keep you emotionally invested and interesting in the mystery for its duration. It never feels like it stoops below those levels, but it also never feels like it’s aiming for anything higher than that either.
The thing that keeps the film going is Kenneth Branagh’s steady direction where he proves once again he’s the perfect guy for these movies. He has a really impressive attention to detail for the unraveling mystery at its core, but also having the patience as a filmmaker to take his time with the characters and heart of the film. The cast is fairly impressive on paper and do fine-enough jobs in the roles they play, although there aren’t many standouts amongst the A-Listers. However, Emma Mackey is one exception to this, as she shines in just about every single second she’s on-screen.
It takes a bit longer than you’d expect for Death on the Nile to get its mystery moving, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate the restraint behind the camera and focus on the character motivations and stories – even if they aren’t overwhelmingly compelling or layered. It’s nice to see an old-fashioned mystery hit theaters in the midst of so many blockbusters. If you’re a fan of mysteries, this one is a fun time!