After viewing the film Death on the Nile which was released this month, one just has a single question: why was this film ever made? It is a terrible effort, one that takes the plot of a well-written book by a famous author, makes ludicrous changes to suit Hollywood’s woke agenda, and then compounds that with terrible acting, hoping that the so-called big names in the film will attract a crowd.
Kenneth Branagh released one film based on an Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express, in 2017, and chose to play Hercule Poirot himself, giving a truly terrible performance. But it looks like he wasn’t satisfied with that; he’s back as Poirot again in Death on the Nile, making one long even for the bumbling Peter Ustinov to rise from the grave and reprise the performance he gave when the same book was adapted to the big screen in 1978.
Death on the Nile tells the tale of a couple who are on their honeymoon; the husband was formerly in love with his wife’s best friend. This woman is extremely wealthy and ends up as the first of three people murdered during a cruise down Egypt’s most famous river. The best friend tails the woman and her husband, annoying the hell out of them. Poirot happens to be on board and is given charge of the case; he solves it, with the story ending with one of his well-known denouements.
That is the bare bones of the book. There are numerous other people on board the Karnak as it makes its way down the Nile: an American financial adviser to the rich woman; an old lady, her nurse and her niece; a German doctor; an author who is a lush and her daughter; and a grouchy single chap who is on his own.
Lots of things about Branagh’s version of the film are strange. First, the alcoholic author and her daughter have gone and have been replaced by a black singer and her daughter, mainly one guesses to pander to American audiences. You wouldn’t want to put on a film with an all-white cast these days, would you? The PC media would rip you to shreds without stopping to think that since the film is based on a book written in 1937, it is only natural that it has only whites sailing down the Nile.
In some of Christie’s books about Poirot, he has an associate named Arthur Hastings who plays a role similar to John Watson in the books about the great Sherlock Holmes. Hastings, it must be noted, played no role in Death on the Nile, the book that is. Branagh has chosen to change his name to Bouc and add him to the cast along with his mother.
If one stops for a moment and thinks, one would come to the realisation that this book was chosen for a film adaptation for a third time — apart from Ustinov’s film, the British actor David Suchet played Poirot to marvellous perfection in a TV film made in 2004 — because there was something outstanding about it, something that demands one stick as close to the original as possible. After all, an author knows her/his characters best.
But Branagh, apparently, had other ideas. The old lady, her niece and nurse are gone and in their place is a lesbian couple. Now all factions are satisfied: the black supporters and also the LGBTQI crowd. How could such a film fail at the box office?
Since his 2017 effort, Branagh appears to be under the delusion that all one has to do to play Poirot is to mumble in an indistinguishable accent, pop on an enormous moustache, and act, in the main, like a buffoon. In one scene, he has Poirot chasing someone around the deck of the Karnak, something a portly man (as Christie described him) would never be able to do. Mind you, Suchet, when he was given the role read numerous books, and made copious notes about the little idiosyncrasies that Poirot had, 93 points in all if one’s remembers right. But Branagh is beyond that kind of study, he is an expert in… well, everything it would appear.
Russell Brand has been brought in to play the role of the doctor – but he isn’t German. No, he is another man who was in love with the rich woman during her single days. One more man with a motive to kill her. Exactly what kind of stuff Branagh’s writers were smoking when they came up with this script is difficult to say.
When the first murder occurs, nobody really asks Poirot to investigate. He just goes off on his own and starts poking around, something which is not true in real life. No detective can start looking into a crime unless he/she is called in by the police or someone who is officially in charge. But Branagh cannot be bothered with such mundane things. In the book, the captain of the Karnak requests a retired colonel who is on board to take charge until the next port; he happens to know Poirot well and asks him to help with finding the guilty party. But for Branagh, such trifles don’t really matter.
The film runs for almost two hours, but nothing seems to happen until an hour has elapsed. Given the number of changes from the original, I would not have been surprised if even the murderers had been committed by a Martian. There is something about books that are set so firmly in the British tradition which an American director cannot seem to grasp. When some American studio produced The Jungle Book, that famous tale from Rudyard Kipling, they made a mess of it as well. All Branagh had to do was to pick up the phone and call Suchet; though the latter has said he will not play Poirot in any more TV films, he has kept open the option of playing the Belgian detective on the big screen if he is asked to.
One sincerely hopes that Branagh is now done with Hercule Poirot and devotes his attention to something else. Anything else.
P.S. Lest one forget, Branagh has a truly epic opening sequence where he offers the viewer a reason why Poirot has those moustaches: his upper lip was badly injured during the first World War. Truly, this man will go far – and the further he goes, the better.