Death on the Nile (2022): Kenneth Branagh Brings a River of Intrigue in This Engaging Murder Mystery

“Death on the Nile” is directed by Kenneth Branagh (Belfast, Thor), who also stars in the film as Hercule Poirot. Joining him in this Agatha Christie novel adaptation is Tom Bateman (Demons, Murder on the Orient Express), Annette Bening (American Beauty, Captain Marvel), Russell Brand (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Arthur), Ali Fazal (Mirzapur, Furious 7), Dawn French (French and Saunders, Coraline), Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Criminal), Armie Hammer (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., On the Basis of Sex), Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones), Emma Mackey (Sex Education, Eiffel), Sophie Okonedo (After Earth, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls), Jennifer Saunders (Sing, Shrek 2), and Letitia Wright (Sing 2, Black Panther). In this film, Hercule Poirot finds himself on a voyage, set on the Nile River, and ultimately has to investigate the behind the scenes shenanigans of a murder during said voyage.

I want to make a couple things clear. I have never read any Agatha Christie works, therefore I have nothing to compare this movie to as far as her material goes. I also will note that this could technically qualify as a sequel. “Death on the Nile” revolves around a group of people under the eye of Hercule Poirot, who was also portrayed by Kenneth Branagh in 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” He directed the film as well. I have never seen the film, so I cannot tell you anything in regards to Branagh’s previous efforts, whether they are in front of or behind the camera in said film. I was not particularly interested in it at the time, and my lack of interest unfortunately contributed to what I call a lack of knowledge in this circumstance. Nevertheless, the trailers intrigued me enough, Kenneth Branagh is on fire right now with “Belfast” having just come out, and the cast is stacked to the brim.

Well, there’s also Armie Hammer, I should also mention that.

With that being said, I kind of saw “Death on the Nile” on a whim, I bought a ticket less than an hour before the show because I was in the area, although I did intend to see it by the end of the weekend, and I have to say the movie in some ways pleased me in the ways I expected it to. Although it does have a double-edged sword.

One of the best things about “Death on the Nile” is the feud between the newlywed couple, the Doyles, and this one woman, Jackie, played marvelously by Emma Mackey, or as I call her, Samara Weaving’s lookalike. Prior to Simon Doyle’s connection with his new wife, Linnet, he used to be in love with Jackie, who just so happens to be following everyone else. I loved getting to know these characters and every scene Mackey is in is one that had my attention, partially because of how well she played the character. But this also brings me to my main con with the film, and it is that it takes a bit longer than I expected to actually see the murder shenanigans go down. Now don’t get me wrong, the film is entertaining from start to finish. I was invested in most of the scenes that were written, but that would have to be my big pacing issue of the film. For a film that calls itself “Death on the Nile,” the “death” is not exactly much of a standout until the film’s second half. Is the book the same way? Again, I do not know. I do not plan on reading it anytime soon, so frankly I do not care to know.

Although if I had to bring another positive to the table, it is that the film is easy on the eyes. The film is as exotic as it is suspenseful. The color palette throughout feels like an old-timey flick but with a modern twist. It is a film that feels like it simmers itself in tradition, but infuses some sugar and spice to make it more attractive.

The performers all do a great job at bringing their own flair to the mix in “Death on the Nile,” I cannot recall one performance that either underwhelmed or annoyed me. Well, kind of…

Going back to Emma Mackey’s character of Jackie, I want to focus on her for a bit because I admired Mackey’s performance, but I did so with the acknowledgement of how much I disliked her character. Let me just be clear, I watch a lot of movies, and usually when I watch one I like, I usually like all the characters because they make the movie fun and enjoyable to watch. This one is different. I can only recall a few movies I watched in my life where I hated a character who was in it, and used that hate to remind myself of how effective the movie was at doing its job. “Whiplash” and “The Lion King” are the first two titles that come to mind. Mackey’s behavior in the film made me feel like I was part of the film, and films are always better when they can immerse you into the frame. Mackey did so in a way that made me want to punch her in the face, and all respect to the actress. Emma Mackey, if you read this, I think you have an amazing future ahead of you. I would totally cast you in a film if I find the right role, but I will not lie when I say, your character should have been thrown into the Nile to sleep with the fishes.

I like you, I hate your character. And for that, the movie did its job.

I also want to talk about Gal Gadot. She is an actress I have admired ever since I saw her in “Batman v. Superman,” because while that film showed a weakness from her as a performer, specifically on some line delivery, I saw enormous potential in her, because she carried the action sequences like a champ. I probably said this a couple times in my life. In “Batman v. Superman,” the real winner is Wonder Woman. And I think in just about every movie that has come out since, she has at least improved in some way. In “Death on the Nile,” I think casting Gadot as Mrs. Doyle is appropriate, partially because Gadot looks like someone who can symbolize beauty and wealth at the same time (also, she statistically is very wealthy), but this film shows that she has improved as an actress. She is more able to carry a film now than she has ever been, and there are a couple of scenes where I was able to feel the weight of some of her lines.

And of course, I cannot ignore Kenneth Branagh, who not only makes this film look as pretty as it is, but he carries his weight to bring a lively performance to the table. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch Kenneth Branagh rock a mustache? If they’re making a “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” adaptation set in Northern Ireland, I think Branagh would slay as Willy Wonka, and it would be better if the mustache stays. I think Branagh flat out just looks like someone who would be a detective in his spare time, so the fact that he’s cast as Poirot is undeniable. It’s perfect. Again, I have not seen “Murder on the Orient Express,” so I have nothing to compare this performance to franchise-wise. Having said that, “Death on the Nile” is good enough to the point that I want to go back at some point and give “Murder on the Orient Express” a try. Maybe compare the two and see which one’s better.

In the end, “Death on the Nile” is intriguing from beginning to end and offers an ensemble that gives you all the feelings from grace to anger to sadness. This may not end up being the best film of 2022, after all, the year is only beginning, but as far as this year’s fare, I recommend “Death on the Nile.” It has one or two pacing issues, but I feel like that could be a fairly subjective notion on my part. I probably won’t remember every single character, but there are quite a few that stand out to make this film one of the more entertaining experiences of the past number of months. I’m going to give “Death on the Nile” a 7/10.

“Death on the Nile” is now playing in theaters everywhere, tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I have more coming! My next review is going to be for the movie “Uncharted,” which just hit the big screen over a week and a half ago. Also coming up, I will be tackling my thoughts on “The Batman,” which hits theaters everywhere this week. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Death on the Nile?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Agatha Christie book? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Knives Out (2019): 2019’s Pop Culture Murder Mystery Dinner

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“Knives Out” is directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) and stars… well, pretty much everyone you know. To be completely serious though, “Knives Out” stars Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Exposed), Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger, Gifted), Daniel Craig (Skyfall, Logan Lucky), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Scream Queens), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Shape of Water), Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges), Toni Collette (Hereditary, The Sixth Sense), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You, Get Out), Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why, Love, Simon), Jaeden Martell (It, The Book of Henry), and Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, The Sound of Music). Holy crap, that’s a lot of names.

“Knives Out” takes place in the middle of Massachusetts and it typically centers around the interactions of a family after the death of a patriarch. Everybody gathers around a large house, everybody’s got a story, everybody’s got a motivation, but it is also up to a detective (Daniel Craig) to settle everyone down and find out the truth regarding what happened.

The murder mystery genre for me is kind of like horror, because I never take too many chances to dive into the genre itself. Granted, horror, at least to me, is a tad more predictable because it seems to have more of a staying power in today’s society, so I personally prefer the murder mystery genre. In fact, my favorite “Family Guy” episode ever, “And Then There Were Fewer,” is a murder mystery, so I do have some respect for the genre. And honestly, when it comes to Rian Johnson, I will admit that I have had a slight bad taste in my mouth because of the way he handled “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s a film that just got significantly worse after I first saw it. In fact, when I watched it a second time, I was kind of turned off by the result. I say that because I wanted the movie to go in a different direction than say “The Empire Strikes Back,” which is a great movie. However, despite the everlasting love and affection I have for 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” one minor flaw with that movie is the way they manage to basically rehash the earliest “Star Wars.” Granted, it’s a fantastic homage which had many repeat viewings for me. But as much as I originally appreciated it for going in a different direction, a lot of the choices they made to go in such a direction were sort of faulty and questionable.

However, having seen that movie, I now know that Johnson might as well be one to subvert expectations. Here’s the thing. Murder mysteries are supposed to keep you guessing. If this movie could keep me on the edge of my seat and questioning everything, then I’d walk out satisfied.

Honestly, I went into this movie with an idea of what is going to be. It turns out, I got something better than what I thought I would get. And that says a lot because the hype behind this movie felt real for me. The production design is some of the best I have seen all year. The acting, not to mention casting in general, is perfect. Everyone from Daniel Craig to Ana De Armas to Toni Collette, everyone served their roles properly and put a smile on my face.

I’ll just say though, I think the two most popular award ceremonies that have to with movies are the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. I have had a history of talking about both ceremonies on here, especially the Academy. But I never usually talk about another popular ceremony, the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards. One of the biggest awards they present on the night of the ceremony is one given to the entire ensemble of actors. We still have about a month left before 2019 is over, and a little longer than that until the ceremony takes place, but I’d argue that at this point, “Knives Out” has an extremely solid chance at winning such an award. I think purely based on how Rian Johnson has to handle so many actors at once, many of whom happened to already establish their name in the industry, including a couple who are a bit lesser known, there is a chance “Knives Out” could walk away with the biggest award from that ceremony.

One of the more solid examples that could let that case be true is Daniel Craig, who plays Benoit Blanc in the film. His performance, was part of what set the tone for the entire movie for me. Daniel Craig, while taking his performance seriously, realizes that this movie is sort of supposed to be fun. His introduction scene almost made me think I was watching something from Wes Anderson, because it is charming, quirky, and based on the way it was directed, I was perhaps hypnotized to leave the film, regardless of whether or not I liked it, admiring Craig in all his glory.

Another standout performer to me is one of the leads, Chris Evans. I think most of what I love about this performance has mainly to do with the screenplay and how the character is written. I say that because the movie is full of tense dialogue between characters, which allows serious vibes to kick in, but Evans manages to play a character who is incredibly laid back and sort of a smartass. Do I think other people could have played his character? Personally, yes, I think I could have played it if I tried, because if I were in this situation, this is probably how I would act. I’d try to have fun with the seriousness at hand, while also trying to deal with the current situation.

As for smaller roles, I think there are a number of them that stand out. Jamie Lee Curtis, Jaeden Martell, but the one I want to talk about is the one given by Toni Collette. I think Collette is not only a great performer here, but brought such life to her character that I cannot imagine anyone else bringing at all, or at least without being cringeworthy. Collette’s character sort of reminds me of a crazy aunt who likes to party. Maybe another good example is the mother from ABC’s “The Goldbergs,” minus the toxic affection she has for offspring. In a way, she’s almost like Chris Evans’ character, because as much as everyone else may be moody or depressed, which she kind of is at times, but still, she has a somewhat happy outlook on current happenings. Either that or she may just have some sort of God-given charisma that nobody else can have.

But if you ask me, I think the best performance in the film is given by Ana de Armas, an actress who I personally happened to have liked before this film came out, and someone who may been the main reason why this film was originally put on my radar. For the record, Ana de Armas was one of the supporting roles in my 2nd favorite film of 2017, and one of my favorite sci-fi films of the decade, “Blade Runner 2049.” She has this ability to take a challenging role and own it. Because in that movie she played a holographic woman that was supposed to have a connection to whoever owned them. The complexity of that role involved being someone who is robotic enough to serve their master, while also being human enough to understand emotion, because in that movie she was someone who happened to be in love with the main character. At the same time, it was almost as if she was a product of the main character’s desires.

As for this movie, we get more of a glance at a character where Ana de Armas has a personality where she is more worried about saving herself. In fact, I mentioned earlier that Daniel Craig presented himself as this quirky, out of nowhere detective. If you ask me, I think the biggest quirk in the movie didn’t necessarily come from him, and instead, came from Ana de Armas. Because she plays a character who practically cannot lie. If all other people were like her, she’d make the lie detector test obsolete. I say that because her character cannot tell a lie, otherwise she throws up. This makes every scene where Armas is forced to tell a truth or where she is being questioned all the more intriguing because not only was I, as an audience member, hypnotized to follow the mystery as it was unraveled, but I was also somewhat concerned for the character’s sanity, health, and sense of self.

From a technical standpoint, the cinematography in the film is amazing. The various dutch angles fit a number of the scenes and sort of had an old Hollywood vibe. The music is outstanding. By the way, such music is composed by Rian Johnson’s cousin, Nathan Johnson, who also worked with him in films like “Brick” and “Looper.” I think Rian Johnson could have a chance for being nominated in the Best Director category, I think his vision helped this movie immensely. This honestly feels like a movie that only he could have done. Maybe one or two other people could do this, but this feels like a personal project. And as much as I despise “The Last Jedi,” I could see what Rian Johnson was trying to do with that movie, because he not only directed that film, but he wrote it as well. “Star Wars” to me, must be a more collaborative piece of media to work on at this point, and with “The Force Awakens” pointing in a certain direction, it admittedly feels odd looking back to see one man with perhaps a sole vision take over for a big film that could expand on previous lore and build up to the next one which happens to conclude a trilogy. These are the kinds of films that I would prefer to see Johnson tackle. Could he do another big franchise in the future? Maybe, but I want to see more of his original work. Media that feels like something only he could own.

I honestly don’t even know what problems come to mind with “Knives Out.” The camerawork is some of the best I have seen all year. The characters are all charismatic. The screenplay is nothing short of outstanding. The ending, as well done as it is, is little choppy in buildup. As for other problems, if there are any, they are a bit hard to point out. Overall, this movie kicks ass!

In the end, “Knives Out,” the movie with perhaps the most badass title of all time, packs a brutal punch of bloody goodness. It is easily one of the best movies of the year, and a step in the right direction for Rian Johnson as a filmmaker. I have not checked out his earlier work, but I really want to check out “Looper.” Films like these are the ones I’ll be excited for when it comes to Rian Johnson’s filmography. Films that are original, exhilarating, and keep me on the edge of my seat. If I have to say one more thing, I will suggest that you’d go see this movie with the biggest crowd you can. If you have one of those theaters with reserved seating near you, buy your tickets online and see how many people have already reserved seats. If there many seats reserved already, I implore you, PLEASE buy a ticket to that show because this is a movie where crowd reactions enhance the experience to the tenth degree. I’m going to give “Knives Out” a 9/10.

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Thanks for reading this review! Just want to announce to everyone reading that during this Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to be showing off my newest trailer for “Top Movies of the 2010s,” a project I plan to release this January, it is going to be the most ambitious countdown series I have done yet, and I cannot wait to share it with you all! If you want to be notified about this trailer, here’s what you can do. Follow Scene Before with an email, or if you want greater access, use a WordPress account! If you are on Facebook, check out MY PAGE and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Knives Out?” What did you think about it? Or, who happens to be your favorite fictional dysfunctional family? It can be from anything, books, movies, TV, you name it! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!