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Death on the Nile (Christian Movie Review)

Overall

3.5/5

Final Verdict: An entertaining enough throwback to a classic movie genre that unfortunately doesn’t do enough to convince modern audiences that the genre should stick around for awhile.   

About The Film

“Someone is dead. The crime is murder. The murderer is one of you.”

There are few genres as satisfying as a good ol’ fashion whodunit. Agatha Christie’s famed detective, Hercule Poirot, brings his fantastic mustache back into theaters for another throwback murder mystery. As with 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, Kenneth Branagh serves as both the star and director of the adaptation.

Death on the Nile has much in common with that 2017 film, featuring a star-studded cast traveling together on a form of transportation that soon becomes the site of a murder. Branagh is once again delightfully quirky as the brilliant but emotionally detached detective (and did I mention that mustache?). The other actors hold their own, particularity Gal Gadot, Russell Brand, and Letitia Wright. Also of note, despite some off-screen controversies, Armie Hammer remains front and center as well.

Murder mysteries are a relatively simple but tricky formula to execute. The excitement doesn’t truly start until the murder occurs, but for that moment to work, a wide enough cast of characters, each with their own questionable motives, must be established. Also, for the characters to be suitable suspects, they cannot be overly likable. As a result, Death on the Nile is very slowly paced and spends a sizable portion of its two-hour runtime depicting unlikeable characters simply being unlikable. This might test the patience of viewers eager to just get to the murders.

When the murder does occur, the excitement and suspense does ramp up and there are several intense and thrilling moments. Still, the film struggles to maintain an aura of danger or the looming, claustrophobic threat of having a murderer on board the ship.

Additionally, much of the enjoyment of the genre is the interactive element of playing detective and trying to spot the clues and solve the mystery before the characters, Although I rightly guessed the suspect on a hunch (a rarity for me), the climatic revelation isn’t one that audiences can realistically piece together, since the clues used by Poirot are not always fully available to audiences. Thus, there is something slightly unsatisfying about it, leaving me feeling a bit cheated rather than exhilarated at solving the case.    

Overall, Death on the Nile is an entertaining enough throwback to a classic movie genre that unfortunately doesn’t do enough to convince modern audiences that the genre should stick around for awhile.   

On the Surface

For Consideration

Profanity: A handful of minor profanities and several crude words or sexual innuendos.  

Sexuality:Highly sensual dancing, casual talk about having sex, some sexual innuendos, and one same-sex couple.   

Violence: Several characters are murdered. The dead bodies are depicted, and some blood is shown.  

Beneath the Surface

Engage the Film

Love  

The film explores love from the differing perspectives of its diverse collection of characters. Almost all of the characters are driven by some element of past, present, or future love. Love drives characters to commit extreme and reckless action. Loves both divides and brings people together. Love destroys some people and sets others free.

As one character remarks, with such burning hot, true love, “who needs God?” This selfish love has become an end unto itself. Love has become god. Other characters wrestle with distorted or abused love. An older character unleashes an explosive diatribe, declaring that,“the Corinthians got it wrong!” Her own painful experience of love has been the very opposite of the pure love expressed in 1 Corinthians 13.

Despite the overwhelming emphasis on the negative manifestations of love, by the end of the film (metaphorically demonstrated by the film’s bookend opening and closing scenes), audiences are left with a feeling of faint optimism that, although human love will always be imperfect and ripe for abuse, it is something beautiful and worth pursuing. 

Greed and Selfishness

Death on the Nile basks in the extravagance of wealth and abundance. As the story progresses, the curtain is pulled back to expose the loneliness and corrupting nature of money. Gal Gadot’s character sums it up by confessing, “When you have money, no one is really your friend.”  Throughout the movie, characters are driven by the selfish desire to possess—both money and people—and ultimately suffer the destructive consequences of their lustful desires.

Author

  • Daniel holds a PhD in "Christianity and the Arts" from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author/co-author of multiple books and he speaks in churches and schools across the country on the topics of Christian worldview, apologetics, creative writing, and the Arts.

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