Why does Hercule Poirot have a mustache? This is one of the little mysteries that the long-awaited remake of Death on the Nile will answer.

Briton Kenneth Branagh (“Hamlet”, “Kommissar Wallander”) embodies Agatha Christie’s famously strange Belgian detective for the second time after the cinema success of “Murder on the Orient-Express” (2017). He actually wishes he had peace, but finds himself caught up in a murder case again. Branagh also performed again. One of the producers is Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner”, “House of Gucci”).

Entertaining winter escape cinema

After the shooting, there were problems. But first to the film. It’s an exuberant and bombastic cinematic extravaganza set in a fantastical and glamorous Egypt with many stars in splendid 1930s costumes, including “Wonder Woman” Gal Gadot, Russell Brand and Annette Bening. Entertaining winter escapist cinema for the big screen, but without the cult factor of Peter Ustinov as Poirot and as a Christie adaptation, it certainly can’t compare to old Miss Marple films. It’s a classic “Who was it” thriller with today’s computer and studio technology. A tradition remains: for the final, Poirot solved all the puzzles in one round with the suspects – and of course almost everyone had a motive.

The story begins with Branagh in black-and-white with Poirot’s prehistory: as a soldier (still without a mustache) of World War I, he uses his instincts to save his business and ends up injured in the hospital, where he sees the love of her relive at her bedside. Using old film appearances, Branagh, 61, is rejuvenated on screen. The film then travels to London, to a nightclub where wealthy heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Gadot) falls in love with charming Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) at a sexy ball.

A little later, Poirot is seated in front of the pyramids of Egypt, next to a picnic table with two boiled eggs. A man does gymnastics on the pyramids: his old acquaintance Bouc (Tom Bateman), with whom Poirot attends a wedding party on the Nile. There, Simon’s ex-lover, Jacqueline (Emma Mackey), appears. Then Simon’s wife, Linnet, is shot dead in her bed. This won’t be the only corpse left on the Nile cruiser. In between, a crocodile slams onto the shore for prey – evil is a constant companion. The story is complex and somewhat absurd, carried by Branagh, who lovingly plays Poirot.

There’s actually something about Agatha Christie’s detective fiction that’s comfortable, it’s not scary. “Death on the Nile” was published in 1937, Christie wrote it after a trip to Egypt. Branagh wanted the film version to be “a bit younger,” as he explains in the production notes. “Everything about the story is younger now, more sensual, and has more depth, literally and aesthetically.”

During the corona pandemic, Disney’s production, which according to the media would have cost around 90 million dollars, was suspended for a long time, like the new Bond, which was postponed several times. The decor was complex: the construction of the ruins of the temple of Aswan alone took 10 weeks, that of the spectacular ocean liner 30 weeks. It was shot in studio and on English location locations. An Egyptian spice market on the banks of the Nile has moved to the Cotswold Water Park in west London. In Egypt, the Abu Simbel temple was surveyed and photographed, and a special camera crew was on the road filming the Nile and the pyramids for digital effects.

The thriller was filmed in 2019. After that, serious allegations of sexual assault against actor Armie Hammer (“Call Me By Your Name”) became known. He denied them, his career was deteriorating. Los Angeles police are still investigating. In “Death on the Nile”, Hammer’s role is so important that it would have been difficult to remove him. Shooting the thriller from scratch would have been expensive and particularly complicated because of the pandemic. Disney did not comment on this resort when asked.

None of this story can be seen in the film. He stayed with the cast, Hammer is briefly mentioned in press releases. In another production involving Ridley Scott, things were different. Kevin Spacey’s appearance in “All the Money in the World” (2017) was cut after the Metoo case associated with him. Scott refilmed the relevant scenes with Christopher Plummer. (dpa)