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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

‘Death on the Nile’ is Dead Upon Arrival

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★★☆☆☆

“Death on the Nile” attempts to embody a luxurious, Old Hollywood aesthetic — and that’s it. 

With two-dimensional characters and a subpar plot, this movie transforms Agatha Christie’s iconic, complex mystery novel into a mindless watching experience that prevents viewers from figuring out the mystery for themselves.

The film is set in 1937, and Linnet Doyle (Gal Gadot) is a wealthy heiress set to marry her friend’s ex-fiance Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) in Egypt. However, the wedding festivities, which take place on a boat perusing the Nile River, are cut short when a murder occurs, setting off an investigation by Christie’s iconic detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh). 

Bluntly put, the film’s version of its source material’s plot is mediocre at best. Above all, the pacing is strange, since all of the action is shoved into the second half of the movie. 

With all the action packed into the latter half, one might think the movie would use the first half to develop its characters’ backstories, especially because these backstories become quite important in establishing each character’s possible motives for murder. 

However, instead of steadily developing characters throughout the plot, each time a character is sat down for their interrogation by Poirot, their entire backstory is vomited at the audience. 

The combination of stunted pacing and disorganized backstories leaves the audience confused as to what connections exist between certain characters and the murder victim, even as far as two-thirds of the way into the movie. 

Moreover, because there are so many characters, their motivations are often only briefly explained without enough time for the audience to comprehend their interwoven relationships or motives for anything. 

Subsequently, the majority of characters come out as two-dimensional personalities, contributing to the flatness of the plot. 

The ultimate consequence of this messy plot is that without appropriately developed backstories, viewers have virtually no chance of piecing together the film’s central puzzle themselves. 

At most, viewers may be able to guess the identity of killer, but the complex layers of the murderer’s motive are completely lost. Viewers have to be okay with being force-fed exactly what happened.

Ultimately, the movie itself gets caught up in its own world building, excessively focused on creating an ambiance of “old money” wealth and spending more time on shots of clothes than on developing the characters themselves or the plot. 

This cinematic misstep muddied the characters’ backstories and motivations and clouded the plot’s coherence. 

Still, even though this excessive world building detracts from the film’s plot, it is superb on its own. “Death on the Nile” provides viewers with a sense of luxury akin to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

The movie features stunning wardrobe choices like chic white pantsuits, silky chiffon, wide-brimmed hats and sparkling jewelry, all set against the backdrop of a yacht floating on the majestic Nile surrounded by Egypt’s awe-inspiring limestone statues. 

Although this cinematic opulence contributes to the film’s fragmented plot, the luxurious set matched with characters’ old-timey manner of speaking evokes a pervasive sense of the Old Hollywood aesthetic, offering viewers an escape into a world most cannot afford. Georgetown AMC’s pricey $15 tickets almost seem like a cheap way into this expensive existence. But perhaps potential viewers’ money would be better spent buying the far superior book.

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  • L

    Leslie RobinsonSep 6, 2022 at 5:29 pm

    Maybe it’s you, not the film. I figured out who did it & why long before the end.

    Reply