Hercule Rides Again
'Allo again, ma dear friends! Yes, I, ze great Poirot, 'ave been called out of retairment once more to feel in for your regulair correspondent as he 'as 'ad a beet of a sneefle zis week. Ze timeeng is, again, fortuitous, as zees coincides wiz ze arrival in cineemas of Kenneth Brannair's latest crack at one of my most celebrated cases, Death on the Nile (as originally recorded by ma old pal Aggie, of course).
Zis is a movie wheech 'as been 'anging around for a bit, because of ze pandemic playing ze merry hell with cinema release dates. Indeed, since 'e finished it M. Brannair has gone off and made an 'ole othair movie which 'as already come out. It eez, as you might expect, a laveesh sort of affair and so all the various backairs are surely keen to get a proper return on their investments. So, if ah poot ze little grey cells into action, can ah ascertain just what their chances are of an agreeable outcoom?
Ken 'imself returns as ze Brannair-Poirot, who – like ze real me – is a brilliant detective and wonderfool chap, but also – unlike ze Poirot vrai – a beet of a weirdo who someone at one point calls 'an egomaniacal freak'. Tch! Perhaps ze most obvious difference is that, in these over-exposited times, Poirot is not to be permitted just to be Poirot, and so zere is ze extended prologue sequence filling in ze back-story of the Brannair-Poirot, particularly why he has grown 'is rideeculous moostache and why he approaches his detecting wiz such an all-consuming monastic zeal. It is not streectly necessary from a plot point of view but it does ze nice job of setting up ze moral premise of ze movie.
Anyway, back in ze present day, or at least ze 1930s, zere is a bit of rinky-dinky plotting involved in setting everything up before all ze principal characters actually end oop on ze rivair Nile. (Brannair 'elpfully puts up a caption saying 'ze Nile' over a picture of a rivair wiz some big pyramids next to it, because you should nevair overestimate the intelligence of your audience.) Ze plot basically concerns a luxury cruise taken by a boonch of rich people, two of 'oom 'ave just got spliced – zey are played by Gal Gadot and Armie Hammer. Of course, both of zem 'ave ze odd old flame 'anging about ze place, and zere are various troublesome relatives, servants, entertainairs, and so on, because if you are going to 'ave ze all-star cast zey all 'ave to 'ave parts to play. (Some of ze more prominent folk involved are Annette Bening, Sophie Okonedo, Russell Brand, French and Saunders, and so on.)
Inevitably, what wiz ze film being called Death on the Nile, someone gets ze chop. Actually, zere is quite a lot of chopping zis time around before everything is resolved, and ze Brannair-Poirot must spring into action and do some heavy-duty detecting before ze cruise ship gets back to civilisation. Zere is even some actual springing into action involved, wiz ze Brannair-Poirot chasing ze killair about and getting quite physical, not soomthing I would evair actually do mahself. Can Ken get his man (or woman)?
Well, ah think we all know zat ze idea 'ere was nevair going to be to do soomthing very bold and experimental; ze Agathair Christie oodunnit iz a kind of cinematic comfort food – ze audience is 'ere for the costumes and the slightly 'ammy performances and ze conventions of ze form. And zese are all in place, even if most of zem feel like zey are a bit lacking in substance for whatevair reason. Most of ze cast are quite acceptable – and ze Russell Brand is startlingly effective in a completely straight role – but it feels as if zey are mostly playing slightly camp stock charactairs. Ze danger is zat zees will just be another film which looks good but which is ultimately only flippant and trivial.
Zere is at least an attempt to give ze movie a bit of ballast by establishing a proper moral premise or theme, which is zat love is a dangerous thing which makes people act like zey are crazy. Maybe love is a kind of crazy, I would not know. (Ze Brannair-Poirot, on ze other hand, does know, which is what all ze business wiz ze origin of his moostach has to do with – as I said, it is all a bit thematic.) Whatevair you make of zis motif, it is at least carried through thoroughly and energetically, although ze subtlety of ze implementation perhaps leaves just a leetle to be desired.
Ze outstanding feature of ze film, and I say zis from a position of complete impartiality, is ze performance of M. Brannair as me. As we 'ave noted, zis is perhaps not ze purist's Poirot, and zere are still ze running-gags about Brannair-Poirot being a leetle bit OCD and obsessed with sophisticated dessert dishes. But ze enormous moostache is less of a sooprise zis time and less distracting as a result. What becomes clearer, perhaps, is ze intelligence and presence which Ken brings to ze role; ze Brannair-Poirot initially appears to be a ridiculous fop but proves to be a man of great wisdom and authority when ze chips hit ze fan. Truth be told, M. Brannair's performance is perhaps rathair bettair than the rest of the film warrants and certainly ze main reason to watch it.
As ze director, M. Brannair puts togethair an appealing enough package, although it is perhaps a bit heavy on ze CGI much of ze time, and ze resolution of ze story is enjoyably convoluted and devious. Ze new Death on the Nile is nevair what you would call a heavyweight affair, except perhaps when it comes to ze star performance, but I would imagine it ticks all ze boxes for ze many people who are still aficionados of Aggie's work and – of course! – me. Everyone else will probably find it a divairting entertainment if not exactly memorable.