Gretchen Lee—Copy Editor
I loved Murder on the Orient Express; visually pleasing, cleverly crafted, and an ending packed with an emotional and moral punch that left the audience devastated. Every inch of Murder was packed with suspense, clues, and intrigue.
After having seen the newly released sequel, Death on the Nile, I have concluded that the writers put every bit of their talent into Murder on the Orient Express and saved absolutely none of it for Death on the Nile.
In the film, detective Hercule Poirot finds himself a guest to a young heiress’s honeymoon on the Nile River. Though the newlyweds seem happy, the young woman tells Hercule in private that she doesn’t feel safe among her closest friends. With a jealous ex-lover on the loose and an excess of money waiting to be stolen, our hero lands in the center of several emotionally driven mysteries.
This film had the potential to be clever. Jealousy is a powerful narrative tool that can drive brilliant stories and, with this film’s exotic setting and large cast, the filmmakers had everything at their disposal to make a slam-dunk success. Instead, the movie felt empty.
First, the plot moved too slowly, with few moments of discovery or action. This would have been excusable had there been interesting dialogue, but even the script felt rather lacking. So much time was spent leading up to the murder that, by the time it arrived at such a point, the audience was bored, and the death lacked emotional weight.
Once the action picked up, the ending lacked the skill and cleverness of its predecessor; the culprit was somewhat interesting, but the murder itself lacked the brilliance and foreshadowing that made Murder incredible.
Technically speaking, this film has charm. The set, costuming, camerawork, and editing made for a visually spectacular way to spend two hours. The characters were framed and displayed in unique ways that, at least, were pleasing to the eye and helped reveal bits of information about their emotional state. The soundtrack was, overall, very good. It enhanced the mood with its jazz and blues undertones in a way that helped maintain the 1920s setting.
I also felt the film was well-cast and well-acted. This, however, was not enough to compensate for a lack of development for many of the characters; the actors did well with the script they were given, but I was not particularly compelled by most of their stories, as I never felt I knew enough about any character.
Even Poirot, whom we have already spent an entire other movie with, seemed distant and aloof; I didn’t understand why he was there, and I felt he did far less sleuthing than in the previous film. In the final act, Poirot did have a well-acted emotional drive, but even then, I didn’t understand as much of his psyche as I did at the end of Murder.
In summary, Death on the Nile was a disappointment. It lacked nearly everything I loved about the last Poirot movie and felt as though it was pieced together. I know that due to COVID-19, its production was disrupted, but after having its release date pushed back so many times, I was hoping for a higher caliber of film.
Cinematically speaking, it was beautiful, but the narrative was so weak and disjointed that I struggled to stay invested.
I still hope for more Poirot in the future, but I’m willing to wait for the filmmakers to put in the time and effort needed to create something that has a more emotional punch and a cleverer resolution.