Death On The Nile Reviews Are Online, Here's What Critics Are Saying About The Kenneth Branagh Sequel

Kenneth Branagh is back, directing and starring in another Agatha Christie book-to-movie adaptation with Death on the Nile. Following 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, which Branagh also helmed and starred in, Death on the Nile will see private detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) back in action to solve the murder of a vacationer aboard the S.S. Karnak. Critics have seen the movie, and the reviews are in. 

Death on the Nile features another ensemble cast. In addition to Kenneth Branagh, the murder mystery also returns Tom Bateman as Poirot’s friend Bouc, and features some big names including Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders and Letitia Wright. Let’s see what the critics are saying about Death on the Nile, starting with our own CinemaBlend review. Mike Reyes rates the film 4 stars out of 5 and says while this second Agatha Christie adaptation delves more into Poirot’s backstory, it expertly keeps the crime he’s tasked with solving. 

Whether you’re well-versed in this ship bound saga, or are a relatively new fan ready to follow Hercule Poirot anywhere after his previous caper, this journey is a delicious ride that’s as sexy as it is deadly. While a traditional mystery by formula, Kenneth Branagh's retelling experiments with modern twists and flare that make it compelling viewing, and a can't miss cinematic experience.

Siddhant Adlakha of IGN rates the movie 7 out of 10, saying the first half flounders but leads to an intense and personal second half. It takes patience, Adlakha says, but it’s worth the wait. 

It takes Death on the Nile far longer than it should to reach its most impactful moments, but actor-director Kenneth Branagh cares deeply enough about Detective Poirot to make it work. While serviceable as a murder mystery, and surprisingly plain as a story of opulence, the film ultimately succeeds when Branagh turns the camera away from the digital settings and occasionally fake supporting performances, and points it at himself.

Not all of the critics are willing to be so patient, however. Owen Gleiberman of Variety likes Death on the Nile better than Kenneth Branagh’s previous venture, but says it still feels like a relic and pales in comparison to the modern murder myster — or “Agatha Christie 2.0” — Knives Out.

The new film is crisper and craftier than “Murder on the Orient Express”; it’s a moderately diverting dessert that carries you right along. It never transcends the feeling that you’re seeing a relic injected with life serum, but that, in a way, is part of its minor-league charm.

That isn’t the review that compares Death on the Nile unfavorably to Knives Out, as SlashFilm’s Josh Spiegel says he’s already looking ahead to Knives Out 2. He and other critics mention that the real-world assault and rape allegations against Armie Hammer make for some awkward scenes between him and his two romantic partners. Spiegel calls the movie an “absolute misfire” and rates it a 2 out of 10. 

What sinks "Death on the Nile" ... isn't even the backstory surrounding Hercule Poirot's mustache, no matter how silly that collection of words is. It's that the ensemble here — perhaps excluding Branagh and Bateman, and only in a couple of scenes — are working very hard at giving very bad performances indeed. Some of it comes down to the casting asking the actors to not only wear distinctive costumes but speak in distinctive accents that prove too difficult. That's a large part of what hampers the performances from Hammer (whose Simon is a Brit), Okonedo and Wright, and even the usually luminous Annette Bening, whose character is close to the most fascinating and tragic in terms of her fear and cynicism towards love ... but whose accent is mangled.

The ensemble and pacing of the film is also knocked by David Rooney of THR, who rather than looking at the updated version of a murder mystery compares this adaptation to the 1978 version of Death on the Nile. He notes that Kenneth Branagh’s version is outshined in terms of supporting cast and writing. However, its faults aren’t bad enough that audiences unfamiliar with the previous adaptation will be bothered.

Where the new film pales next to its predecessor is in the assembled party that accompanies the newly-weds on a cruise down the Nile aboard the fabulously appointed S.S. Karnak. The characters could have used more detail; the same goes for the various motives — revenge, money, jealousy — that make all of them suspects as the corpses start piling up. Race and sexuality are also stirred into the mix, though too flimsily to add much. Christie’s plots, full of byzantine twists and shock reveals, need to unfold like clockwork, with each of the players given a distinct role in the scenario; [Michael] Green’s script too often feels rushed or vague in what should be key points.

Kyle Anderson of Nerdist agrees with other critics that the film is strongest when focusing on the murder, which apparently doesn’t happen as early as in the source material. 

Luckily, I suppose, Branagh front-loads Death on the Nile with all the stuff I really disliked. All the overly complex CGI establishing shots, all the vapid rich people being way too sexual for 1937, all the ham-fisted exposition. Finally, mercifully, the actual death takes place on the Nile and we get the prerequisite Poirot-interrogates-everyone scenes. This is where the movie begins to feel like a Poirot story. Branagh is able to ratchet up the tension very nicely.

Death on the Nile doesn’t please all the critics, and it seems like some of their critiques aren’t about the movie at all. Whether it’s the off-camera scandals of its cast or comparisons to either past adaptations or the revamped version of the whodunit genre, Death on the Nile is fighting a lot of battles before it even starts. 

Death on the Nile is set to hit theaters on Friday, February 11. Check out our 2022 Movie Release Calendar to see what other films are coming soon. 

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.