“Death on the Nile” is as dull as the blades it features

Ever since the cast list was first announced for Kenneth Branagh’s “Death on the Nile”, the public seemed wary about this sequel to 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express”. Not only was this list of celebrities lackluster, but the stars that were featured all seemed to have been swarmed in controversy. Most notably the list included Armie Hammer, Letitia Wright, Gal Gadot and Russel Brand, each of whom were at some point the focus of heavy criticism over the last couple years. Finally, on Feb. 11, the film was released to the public. Needless to say, it seems as though the controversy surrounding the cast was infinitely more interesting than the movie itself.

The film is a murder mystery set on the titular Nile River, on which there is a grand steamboat featuring the characters the audience will grow to suspect as the killer. They are all gathered there for a wedding between Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) and Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot), when all of a sudden, murders begin to occur on the boat. It is up to world-famous detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) to solve the case of who murdered the victims.

Right off the bat, it was very surreal to see a movie spend its first ten minutes on a surprise prequel for famous fictional detective Hercule Poirot’s mustache. You may think that that is an exaggeration, but there is actually a ten-minute battle story culminating in Poirot’s eventual lost love telling him to “grow a mustache,” in order to hide his grenade-induced scars. This simple opening sets a precedent for a movie comprised of bad set-ups and pay-offs. Most of the film is the characters wandering around the lavish and admittedly great-looking sets, but in reality, it leaves no time to develop character. The filmmakers instead choose to leave all character elements to the expositional dialogue, which is easily one of the laziest ways to convey ideas in a movie.

The film isn’t completely without merit. The cinematography was sometimes impressive and the general look of the film was probably a step above most modern blockbusters. I was particularly impressed with one scene where all the important actions that would come back later in the plot were told through a single long-shot that clearly required a lot of planning and coordination. The sets, as mentioned before, were also very impressive and the 1930’s aesthetic the movie was going for was consistently well done. If the film simply had better pacing, especially in that first hour dedicated to set-up, then it most likely would have made for a more entertaining experience.

The film is a tired exercise in visual flair, but completely lacking in any sort of fun that a mystery should have. At no point did it become nail-bitingly suspenseful or even mildly so. It just remained on what felt like auto-pilot mode. If you want to see some celebrities solve a mystery, I suppose this film will suffice. However, if you’re looking for a genuinely fun and exciting time, then I’d give this one a skip.