Kenneth Branagh leaves Belfast for Death on the Nile

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In the week that saw him become the first person to receive seven Oscar nominations in different categories over the course of his career, Kenneth Branagh also has the usual distinction of having two films he directed in Irish cinemas the same time. First comer Belfastand now he is joined by his Murder on the Orient Express followed, with the man himself again doubling as Agatha Christie’s master detective, Hercule Poirot.

There are no sleuthing prizes to determine which movie should be your priority.

There’s a lot of stardom in Kenneth Branagh’s sequel to Murder on the Orient Express

Beginning with a clever prologue to World War I, Death on the Nile then forwards to 1937 as the ‘hidden of cases’ Poirot somehow finds himself among the well-heeled aboard the SS Karnak as he journeys from Cairo to the Pyramids of Giza and beyond . Among them are newlyweds, an abandoned lover, a lawyer, an old friend – and many others who have something to hide. Sure enough, Poirot’s hopes of a bit of R&R didn’t last long.

Branagh and 20th Century Studios found a pot of gold on the Orient-Express in 2017, when the provocative old-school thriller became a surprise box office hit, taking nearly $353 million off a $55 million budget. It will be interesting to see how many cases Death on the Nile made on its $90 million war chest because, frankly, it’s the weakest movie.

These two don’t look at each other enough

Again, Branagh is great as Poirot, but this whodunit lacks tension when it comes down the river. They went big on the visuals – Morocco and the heavy CGI dub for Egypt – when the story didn’t need it. Orient-Express worked because he felt so claustrophobic; cabin walls never feel like they’re closing in here.

In terms of extra power, Gal Gadot is doing the best in the new set while some of her and Branagh’s co-stars feel underutilized in a movie that’s really in no rush to resolve the mystery. Like Poirot, we wonder what could have been.

Revenue permitting, and Branagh deciding to pull off a Herculean hat trick, he’d do well to consider reuniting with his Belfast stars Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan and Ciarán Hinds. Evil under the sunanybody?

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