Poirot: Death on the Nile [2004]

For almost the first half of Death on the Nile, any viewer who hasn't read Agatha Christie's intricate mystery won't be wondering who-done-it--instead, it's who's-it-going-to-be. The movie, from the television series Agatha Christie's Poirot, swiftly lays out a panoply of enjoyably odious personalities, from the American heiress who stole her best friend's fiance to the snotty, unkempt radical thinker to the boozing gargoyle of a pulp novelist named Salome Otterbourne, any of whom could be a suitable victim. Puttering amongst this mix of fops and harridans is Christie's most popular creation, the fastidious Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, played with exquisite precision by David Suchet (The Way We Live Now). Once the murder occurs, Poirot sets to work sifting through red herrings and petty deceits to unravel the truth. The crisp script and vigorous editing of this adaptation of Death on the Nile (a previous star-studded version from 1978 starred Peter Ustinov as Poirot) are at their best in the first half, zipping from catty remarks to petty bickering to fussy grumbles, deftly planting clues with the skill of a magician's misdirection. Once the interrogations and searches begin, the movie feels hemmed in. But through it all Suchet, with his beady eyes glittering from under his heavy lids, drives the mystery forward with his magnetic portrayal. --Bret Fetzer

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