Death on the Nile Review: A pretty but deeply flawed whodunnit


Based on the Agatha Christie novel, Death of the Nile follows the story of a glamorous couple on their honeymoon vacation aboard a river steamer in Egypt. However, what starts as an alluring and romantic film quickly turns sour, as Belgian detective Hercule Poirot is roped in to search for a murderer aboard the boat. 

The film is heavily CGI-augmented, and the lavish charm makes you feel like you’re taking part in a Northeast African odyssey version of the game Cluedo. As curiosity about the murderer increases, more characters are mysteriously murdered, apparently leading you to run out of guesses. In the end, Poirot gathers everyone together in a room and confronts the murderer and their motivations in front of other characters. In all honesty, I had high expectations for the film. It’s usually a good sign to see an all-star cast, with Gal Gadot, Russell Brand, Jennifer Saunders and Emma Mackey, but it didn’t live up to expectations. 

To start with the positive, it appears impressive as a piece of cinematography. The film’s lavish, demonstrative and showy element is captured very attractively. It’s colourful, vibrant and suits the tone of the movie. However, I don’t think this was enough to conceal that the movie was unattended in other areas. 

In my opinion, what stood out the most was the poor level of character development. You are made aware of the exciting assortment of characters on the boat, but there is little development of each of these, which leaves you confused and uninvested. The film focuses on Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) and her new husband, Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer). You’re taught that she is rich while he is not, and that there are some complexities with this, but it’s hard to understand why or the full extent because of the lack of attention given. Similarly, you are made aware that the others accompanying the happy couple don’t like Linnet for whatever reason, but again, we are left puzzled as to why for most of the characters. There is no attempt to build a unique, three-dimensional character with depth, personality and motivations or intentions. Consequently, you’re left with little emotion regarding their impacts on other characters when events unfold. This is particularly felt in the final scene, whereby it feels like the directors have attempted to create an emotional story ending but instead created confusion. 

If you’ve ever watched an episode of BBC’s Death in Paradise, I can’t help but draw many similarities. The BBC crime drama is set in the idyllic Caribbean, and each week the much-loved detective sets out to solve a complex murder mystery involving many weird and wonderful characters. It’s quite a light-hearted series that isn’t overly taxing or distressing, choosing to omit the many dark scenes that other crime dramas have nowadays. Throughout each episode, you’re never quite sure who the murderer is, and then in the final scene, the magic of the detective pieces it all together. Death on the Nile followed much of the same pattern, but rather than being relieved at the end of the episode or impressed by the conclusion, I was annoyed and frustrated at how it rushed to a sudden ending. Of course, the mismatch of characters, twisting storyline and conclusion is Christie’s, but I couldn’t help but feel it had a lot of potential and was done a disservice by the film’s lack of attention to detail.

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