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12/2/14

DEATH ON THE NILE - REVIEW

Peter Ustinov makes his first cinematic appearance as Agatha Christie's iconic Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in Death On The Nile, another all-star-packed outing for the sleuth, taking over from Albert Finney for many, many years to come.

This time, the setting is much more exotic than it was in Murder On The Orient Express as Poirot and a bunch of dodgy suspects board a fancy cruise along the Nile. Of course, a murder takes place on said steamer and the renowned detective soon begins his investigation. Well... I say soon but don't expect any murder to occur within at least the first hour as this one certainly takes its time when it comes to moving towards the central crime. After that, luckily, we get all the awkward interrogations and suspicious developments you'd expect from that particular type of whodunit, ending of course with a gathering of all the remaining suspects and the big reveal.

The plot follows a love triangle involving wealthy heiress Linnet Ridgeway (Lois Chiles), her ex-friend Jacqueline De Bellefort (Mia Farrow) and Simon Doyle (Simon MacCorkindale) as Linnet basically steals Jacqueline's fiancée and the betrayed young woman starts stalking the new couple wherever they go. The film certainly spends a lot more time showing us this dynamic going on pre-Poirot than the Orient Express did with its backstory, which is why the identity of the victim and the murderer seem pretty obvious from the get-go. The film does rather well, however, to keep you distracted and suspecting other potential candidates as the likes of Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, George Kennedy, Jane Birkin and Maggie Smith step into the picture.

Peter Ustinov proves himself to be the ideal choice to play Poirot, bringing a lot of wit, confidence, likeability and a pitch-perfect French accent and pronunciation to the table. Not to mention a much finer mustache. Whodunit aficionados should enjoy Death On The Nile from start to finish with its fun performances (Davis and Lansbury are particularly and reliably great), its involving plot and its eventually increasing death count yet it lacks the class, subtlety and style of Murder On The Orient Express. It doesn't help that both Farrow and MacCorkindale deliver unconvincing, theatrical, at times near cartoonish performances and that, ultimately, the big reveal is anti-climactic, though one short last attempt to end with a bang is admittedly effective.

All in all, while not the best of the Poirot big-screen efforts, Death On The Nile should appeal to fans of the character while the cast, which also includes a sword-wielding David Niven, makes it an enjoyable ride despite the odd clunky scene here or there.

A solid murder mystery.

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