Kenneth Branagh returns to Poirot with Death on the Nile but for all its starry cast, it does feel rather hollow
“Mother doesn’t approve of anyone born outside of Mayfair
With Maggie Smith, Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury among the company in the 1978 film version, Kenneth Branagh was always going to be up against it in remounting Death on the Nile. But even as he assembles the compelling (Sophie Okonedo, Annette Bening), the curious (Dawn French AND Jennifer Saunders) and the controversial (Armie Hammer and Letitia Wright both having their own issues post-shoot), the end result is something quite trite.
I wasn’t much of a fan of his Murder on the Orient Express and there’s a number of the same issues that recur here. A heavy reliance on CGI is painfully conspicuous throughout which really flattens out so many scenes. And it is all very well gathering an all-star cast but if they’re not given the material to work with, then it is hard not to feel like it is a waste of their talents. Agatha Christie may bear a little responsibility in gathering such a disparate motley crew here but Branagh show no interest in helping to create more rounded characterisations.
What he is more preoccupied with is giving his Poirot that depth, by inserting a prologue which reinvents a backstory but utterly fails to convince, not least in how a moustache can grow through scar tissue. I’m not sure that we gain much from a deeper understanding of Poirot as a man though, the joy in his stories is in how he slips into these microcosms of society to undo them from within. But with so little interest in exploring that society meaningfully before the murders begin (and also during), the result is all too slight. Stick with the Ustinov film.