Death on the Nile: Your New Favorite Whodunnit
When director/star Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green made a new movie based on Agatha Christie's murder-mystery novel "Murder on the Orient Express" in 2017, the result was a surprise hit. Not that anyone should have been shocked — Branagh and his absolutely outrageous mustache were joined on screen by the likes of Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, and Daisy Ridley, in her first big role outside the STAR WARS series.
Now Branagh has stepped into the waistcoat of Agatha Christie's beloved detective Hercule Poirot once again, this time for a new adaptation of the novel "Death on the Nile." Michael Green has once again written the script, and the new cast features Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, and Letitia Wright, in addition to the returning Tom Bateman.
KNIVES OUT reignited interest in the classic whodunnit, and Branagh & Co. are poised to show up at just the right time with this entertaining new riff on Agatha Christie's classic. Here's why DEATH ON THE NILE is set to be your new whodunnit obsession.
The Death on the Nile Release Date
Like many movies in 2020, the release date for DEATH ON THE NILE has moved, and it is now expected to open in 2021.
Party With the First Death on the Nile Trailer
The first DEATH ON THE NILE trailer immediately promises a glamorous escape from reality, while at the same time telling us that this vacation is going to end very badly. We see the magnificent cast and rich, gleaming cinematography of Haris Zambarloukos, who also shot MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS — and was the second unit cinematographer on BATMAN BEGINS. The only downside to this trailer is it suggests that Poirot's mustache has been reduced from its magnificent size in the previous movie. Perhaps there's a story behind that trim.
Obsession Leads to Murder
DEATH ON THE NILE follows Hercule Poirot, once again played by Branagh as he attempts to enjoy a vacation in Cairo. Socialite Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle (Gal Gadot) approaches the detective asking for help with a stalker, and while he demurs, Poirot, Linnet, her husband Simon (Armie Hammer) and her accused stalker Jacqueline (Emma Mackey, above) all end up on the same steamer ship touring the Nile. Murder ensues and savage emotional pains are laid bare.
Or, as the studio puts it, in DEATH ON THE NILE, "Hercule Poirot’s Egyptian adventure aboard a glamorous river steamer descends into a terrifying search for a murderer when an idyllic honeymoon is shattered by violent deaths. This sinister tale of obsessive love and its murderous consequences plays out in an epic landscape of danger and foreboding, with enough shocking twists and turns to leave audiences unsettled and guessing until the final, shocking denouement."
While Armie Hammer hasn't been away from the big screen, several of his last few movies (including the terrific SORRY TO BOTHER YOU and the very freaky WOUNDS) have been smaller productions than this. We're excited to see him as part of this ensemble, especially alongside Letitia Wright and Rose Leslie, not to mention Gal Gadot and the great Annette Bening and Jennifer Saunders.
“Crimes of passion are dangerously sexy,” said Kenneth Branagh in a statement celebrating the start of production back in October 2019. “Agatha Christie has written a riveting story of emotional chaos and violent criminality and Michael Green has once again written a screenplay to match. With a cherished group of long-time artistic collaborators and a brilliant international cast, it is truly a pleasure to join Disney, Fox and Agatha Christie, Ltd. in bringing this daring thriller to the big screen. There are significant new twists, an awe-inspiring desert landscape and a chance to celebrate big-screen entertainment in glorious 65 millimetre celluloid!”
There's more than one adaptation of DEATH ON THE NILE already; the most famous version is the 1978 movie by director John Guillermin, with Peter Ustinov in the first of his run of six appearances as Poirot, and a supporting cast that includes Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, David Niven, George Kennedy, and Jack Warden. There are multiple TV versions, stage and radio adaptations, and even a graphic novel and video game.
A Glorious Vision
Branagh's comment about using "65 millimetre celluloid" for his version, however, tells us a lot about his ambitions for this movie. That's the most technical way to refer to 70mm film — the reasons for the difference don't really matter in this context, just trust us! We're professionals.
Not many movies are shot on film, much less on large-gauge film. Christopher Nolan does, certainly, and that immediately puts DEATH IN THE NILE into the company of "movies that must be seen on the big screen." Clearly Branagh is aiming for a classic spectacle that combines the grandeur of Egypt with the glamorous appeal of his ensemble cast.
Who among that cast plays the person who actually dies, and which among them will be alive to see the credits roll? Agatha Christie fans might already know, but we'll never tell. Fortunately, we don't have too long to wait to find out.
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All images courtesy of 20th Century Studios.