Never having seen or read any of the Hercules (sorry… Hercule) Poirot movies or books respectively, I didn’t quite know what to expect. But comparing his character to well-known fictional detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, Adrian Monk, Benoit Blanc, or even Karamchand, one must say, it is refreshing to view a private eye minus the idiosyncratic tendencies. Agatha Christie’s Poirot has been adapted numerous times. I have experienced only Kenneth Branagh’s take. The way he plays it – a man with full control of his facilities, is enlivening. No nervous twitches or ticks, a majestic yet comical mustache and an interrogative technique that makes Good-Cop-Bad-Cop obsolete – that is all you need and get from this steely-eyed soldier.
Is he too Marty-Sue to be true?
Not quite. The monochrome 1917-esque opening shows promise of a hard-boiled detective’s motivations and aspirations. What follows is a by-the-numbers affair, I suspect originated by the source material and imbibed in popular culture multiple times previously by many, many adaptations. Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile is guilty of something most modern adaptations forego, assuming it to be of no importance – innovation. Not just in technical terms, although it is short of that as well, but narrative as well. Its a very fine line, being faithful versus being courageous. Death on the River Nile chooses to spend most of its impressive runtime on the safe side.
An elephant cast
… is no substitute for shortcomings. Actually, it is one of the reasons for shortcomings. A typical murder-mystery starts early on with the crime and spends the remaining time solving it. Alas, the star power of its lead doesn’t allow it to be a gripping pot-boiler. By delaying the actual murder halfway into the movie, we are left to figure out that what this movie actually wants to be is a passable character study. And those are not very good or interesting characters. There’s a time and place to get your money’s worth, studio heads. This isn’t it.
Its better than what came before it. Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express came some 3-4 years ago with the same premise and super-sized cast. I’m sad to say, instead of completing it, I chose to read the Wikipedia entry. Didn’t feel like I missed much. Couldn’t say the same for this. Although, a theatrical setting might have made a difference…