This ITV version of Death on the Nile is, in my opinion, right up there with Sad Cypress, Taken by the Flood, & Five Little Pigs, each one a masterpiece of televised Agatha Christie fiction, all w David Suchet, the best Poirot on film.
First of all, this is a real film, nothing like a TV movie. As for the Ustinov version w its "star-studded cast", bah, humbug! That version has no heartbeat at all. One couldn't care less about the future of any of its characters, much less their pasts. Here, we have splendid British actors, some of them young & not yet famous, others well-established stars.
In this version of Death on the Nile, the cast couldn't be better: the tragic couple, Emma Malin & JJ Field, as Jacqueline DeBelfort & Simon Doyle, respectively, are fabulous. Emily Blunt is marvelous as the spoiled but not completely hateful American heiress, Linnet Ridgeway.
I will venture an opinion unvoiced thus far, that is, that the lovers' planning of Linnet's murder precedes Simon Doyle's marriage to her. In the very first scene, he bemoans being "broke", but Jackie's reassurance: "I'll think of something, I promise you, my darling, 'll think of something" elicits an immediate smile & revival of his sexual prowess.
This is something, it is true, Poirot could not know, but we do, being witness to this seminal scene. And it turns out to be true. She does indeed think of something! As we see this in the v. next scene when she turns up at Linnet's palatial door w a suggestion that immediately places a v. sexy smiling Simon at Linnet's intimate disposal.
Immediate shift to 3 months later & what has happened? Linnet has become Mrs Simon Doyle! How can we not believe this to be the plan of Jacqueline DeBelfort? As Poirot says: "She has the brains" & Simon Doyle is "the man of action to carry it (her plan) out."
During the genesis of the shift to Egypt, we meet literally all the characters, one after the other, & get a pretty accurate glimpse of who they are... we are vastly amused, but also moved.
It is here that Poirot's entrance is also made... & what an entrance it is! Commented as "... that dwarfish figure mincing down the stairs?" it sets the tone for the ironic or humorous scenes to follow. And a more true to life picture we could not hope for! Every character has a reason for being there... for existing!... from beginning to end.
And all through this film, we get an even fuller picture of who Hercule Poirot is... a fine mind, but an unfulfilled life, lacking love ("Oh, Mademoiselle, how terrible it is, all that I have missed in life" to Jackie for whom love is everything) & one who is constantly buffeted by the willful ways of humanity...
Performances by the rest of the cast are stellar! Nothing less than perfection. Each character is fleshed out, given depth, particularities, tics, overall personality, so that, unlike the prior Ustinov version, we are made to care about every one of them. Even the pathetic, heinous, not always PC characters.
The interactions are so delightful, whether menacing or grotesque at times, that we are caught in Christie's net before we know it.
That Judy Parfitt & Frances De la Tour play absolute but often comic horrors of the female species says something for the Thespian dedication we see at work here. But everyone is rich in character & worth every minute of the time devoted to them.
Of particular note is the fact that the murdered Linnet Doyle elicits little or no sympathy from the other people present, the viewers &, most remarkably, from Poirot himself, from whom the wealthy heiress asked help & was uncharacteristically refused. Simon Doyle's cold-blooded murder is a chilling character study in itself, given what an amiable gent he seems to be... on every other occasion.
The dramatic heart of the film, the murder, is the real climax of it all ~ handled w a suspenseful rhythm rarely surpassed, aided & abetted by the musical score, perfect throughout, though there are others to follow ~ such as the investigation itself, headed by Colonel Race, splendidly portrayed by James Fox.
The brief exchange between him & Poirot: "Well don't be discouraged, Poirot, we'll get to the bottom of this", followed by Poirot's trenchant & hilarious response: "Oh, I know I will" is typical of the film's mood, though dark & ultimately tragic for several of its protagonists.
And, of course, he does. And we are held by every moment of it, by the additional greased-lightning murders, after v. professional interrogations, cabin searches, more private face to face challenges by Poirot ~
The final climax & denouement are superb... w only Jacqueline DeBelfort's absence causing a little scratching of the head. Why on earth, since in all the other Poirots, everyone, including the guilty, is present? Followed by Poirot's also typically crystalline explanation of the crime.
In his private interview w Jacqueline, she denies nothing & even manages to squeeze out a last few drops of compassion, not only from us the viewers, but also from Poirot, which explains his subsequent less than professional action in the ending scene. "Love makes you do many things, Monsieur Poirot" reveals some of the complexity here.
The last glimpse of the lovers dancing in Jacqueline's poor but romantically candle-lit bedroom, before the drama, confirms the love & "life is unfair" themes reiterated throughout the film.
So, speaking for myself, this is a top-notch Poirot episode, a thriller & romance, rarely if ever paralleled in a televised work of fiction & only by the 3 other Poirots, featuring David Suchet, mentioned at the beginning. Especially a whodunit. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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