*Spoilers for the 1937 novel and 2022 movie.*
I’m usually calm at movie theatres. But during Death on the Nile (2022), I lost it—and not in a good way.
Death on the Nile (1937) is my favourite Agatha Christie mystery. I’ve read it three times, presented on it in class, and watched all screen adaptations. This most recent one is directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, who also stars as the detective Hurcule Poirot.
Naturally, I was excited when the new adaptation was announced. And nervous. I’d seen Branagh in Murder on the Orient Express (2017), also featuring the character Poirot, and his interpretation of the detective was not faithful. Or good.
I went in expecting Branagh’s terrible moustache and accent, with Poirot mooning over “chère Katherine” and engaging in fights his book counterpart would have avoided. I only hoped we wouldn’t get some botching of the plot.
Set in Egypt, the mystery centres around Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot), a rich heiress; Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer), her new husband; and Jackie de Bellefort (Emma Mackey), Linnet’s friend and Simon’s ex-fiancée. Tempers flare, and soon Linnet is dead—but not by Jackie’s hand.
The costumes, set designs, and music of Death on the Nile (2022) are on point. The casting and writing? Not so much. I’ve already mentioned Branagh’s Poirot, equally disappointing in this film as in Murder on the Orient Express. But there were other actors whose character portrayals bugged me.
Agatha Christie’s Linnet Doyle is unpleasant. She disses people to their faces and has no regrets about stealing her best friend’s fiancé. She shows some vulnerability, but not much.
The film’s Linnet is too likeable. Her faults are rarely shown and often explained away by bad parenting. The audience sympathizes with her more than with Jackie.
Jackie de Bellefort is more complex in the novel than the film. She’s delusional and obsessive but easier to pity than hate, and shows a wide range of emotions while concealing her true feelings. Mackey’s portrayal of Jackie seems unnuanced in comparison, giving only unsettling smiles and death glares.
The movie sticks closely to the book, for the most part. However, there was a major change the creators made that upset me: they changed the third murder victim.
Instead of the climactic death being the mother of Rosalie Otterbourne, it’s Rosalie’s (Letitia Wright’s) love interest, Bouc (Tom Bateman).
I didn’t fully understand why this bothered me until I later realized: Bouc and Rosalie are a foil to Simon’s and Jackie’s unsuccessful relationship. They show that love exists through hardships.
Despite personality clashes, disapproval of the relationship from Rosalie’s mother, and the struggles of being an interracial couple in the 1930s, they fall for each other.
Branagh’s film shows characters bruised from terrible relationships or from losing love. Bouc and Rosalie’s union would have provided much-needed hope. Bouc’s death seems to send the message that love is doomed to fail.
In an interview following Murder on the Orient Express’ release, Branagh hinted at a “cinematic universe” based off Agatha Christie’s works. After seeing what he did with Death on the Nile, I dread what’s to come.
If you want a good adaptation, watch the 1978 film or, if you’re a purist, the 2004 episode. But don’t expect to leave Branagh’s movie feeling satisfied. It really is Death on the Nile.
Sophia Wasylinko is a third-year Creative Writing and Journalism student. She was the Entertainment Reporter for CHLY 101.7FM in winter 2020. Her favorite things in life are cats, the color purple, coffee, and books (mysteries or books about ghosts, murder, and crime in general). Sophia is excited to be back in Nanaimo and hopes to explore more of Vancouver Island this year.View all articles