Starring: Peter Ustinov, Mia Farrow, David Niven
Director: John Guillermin
Running Time: 140 mins
Death On The Nile is a British film about legendary detective Hercule Poirot as he investigates the murder of a wealthy heiress onboard a paddle steamer travelling down the Nile.
Featuring an all-star cast and a five-star story, John Guillermin’s Death On The Nile is without doubt one of the better Agatha Christie film adaptations. With a wonderful lead turn from Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot, the film delights through lavish production, enjoyable intrigue and a good sense of humour.
In that, Death On The Nile is every bit the entertaining mystery blockbuster that Murder On The Orient Express often failed to be. While both films are level in terms of their star power and production quality, there’s something so much warmer about Death On The Nile, a film that’s ready to have a lot more fun with what is, after all, a mystery designed to entertain and intrigue.
There are a lot of reasons for that, but the biggest of all has to be Peter Ustinov, who is fantastic as Hercule Poirot. Giving a much warmer portrayal of the character than Albert Finney in Murder, Ustinov is a hugely likable lead from start to finish, and that makes his endlessly detailed and thorough eye for mystery immensely endearing, instead of a little unnerving like was the case with Finney’s performance.
What’s more is that Ustinov works really well with the rest of the movie’s amazing ensemble cast. Some of the names on the bill here are enough on their own to make you swoon, with the likes of Mia Farrow, David Niven, Angela Lansbury, Bette Davis, Maggie Smith and more appearing in this most all-star of all-star movies.
There are so many big names in Death On The Nile that even some of the biggest don’t even get much of a look-in, with Ustinov, Farrow and a couple others very much at the centre of attention. However, each of the actors really stands out whenever it’s their moment to shine, and that adds perfectly to the film’s reliance on a wide roster of personalities and potential murder suspects.
As is the case with so many Agatha Christie stories, the entertainment of Death On The Nile is bouncing different ideas of who might have committed the heinous deed, while simultaneously coping with an ever-worsening situation. In that vein, the film establishes all of the motives for its characters within the first twenty minutes, pulling you in immediately as you gear up for the moment when everything goes bang.
Unfortunately, the movie does drag quite badly in between its gripping opening stages and the moment where murder does finally strike, but it then finds its rhythm again as Poirot sets about investigating the crime and creating his theories as to who was responsible.
The formula for Agatha Christie stories is well-known and enjoyably familiar, but one thing that Death On The Nile does to make the story all the more entertaining is really embrace a sense of humour. Murder On The Orient Express was at times a little bit of a dry watch, but Death On The Nile’s warmer vibe comes with a healthy dose of fun-loving comedy.
It’s not a movie that’s there to make you laugh out loud, but a smattering of zany characters, jovial exchanges and more is more than enough to turn Death On The Nile into the thoroughly enjoyable blockbuster it ought to be.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with Death On The Nile. Certainly one of the better Christie film adaptations, the movie counts on great performances across the board, good writing, wonderful production and a solid helping of humour that make it a truly entertaining watch. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.