Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot returns with another competent – if unspectacular – movie take on Agatha Christie’s famed detective.

After the success of 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express – which did fantastic box-office business despite only being on the same par as this follow up – a sequel was inevitable. Even with this delayed by nearly a year due to Covid.

But despite a glittering all-star cast – featuring some British favourites – it never really ever gets out of third gear, despite being a serviceable mystery-thriller throughout.

One major thing that actor/director Branagh – just nominated for an Oscar for his recent well-received directing gig with Belfast – gets right, is the 1938 locale of Egypt’s Nile and accompanying settings such as sensually broody jazz clubs. The old-fashioned production values are spot-on.

But generally everything that goes on around it is all a little plodding, and well a bit, meh. Nothing really new to be seen here.

Six months before the events of the main film, Poirot – after a movie-commencing World War I back story in his Belgian regiment that explains the origins of his iconic moustache – can be seen in a jazz club where illustrious singer Salome Otterbourne (Sophie Okonedo) is performing. Here he witnesses the ‘ferociously in love’ Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey) introduce her fiancé Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) to her childhood multi-millionaire heiress friend Linnet Ridgeway (Gal ‘Wonder Woman’ Gadot).

But when Poirot bumps into his friend Bouc (Tom Bateman), and his renowned painter mother Euphemia (Annette Bening) while vacationing in Cairo, in a surprise plot twist Simon and Linnet have become married – after ‘sparks flew’ between the two of them – and Jacqueline is now the scorned-ex creepily pursuing them on their honeymoon, taking place upon a luxury boat liner on the Nile.

Which is coincidentally what Poirot then gets invited too – along with a dozen or so ‘soon to be turned into suspects’ guests – with Linnet worried about her safety. And the expected death(s) ensue.

With cast members such as Russell Brand’s aristocratic doctor, Jennifer Saunders’ socialite and Dawn French as her companion, there’s definitely a heavy British influence on the movie – but despite a few twists and turns it never really ever ‘thrills’.

And the word ‘love’ – with an underlying theme based around ‘unrequited love’ at its centre – is banded about with so much regularity, it does start to eventually become stomach-churning at its over use.

But if you haven’t seen the original film, this is a passable ‘lazy river ride’ with some great scenery to help the formulaic time pass by – as Branagh does a functional job.

It just won’t linger in the memory for too long.

ESP Rating: 3/5

Gavin Miller

Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now

Cast: Gal Gadot, Kenneth Branagh, Armie Hammer, Tom Bateman, Emma Mackey, Letitia Wright, Annette Bening, Sophie Okonedo, Russell Brand, Dawn French & Jennifer Saunders

Running Time: 2 Hrs 6 Mins

Director: Kenneth Branagh

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