Kristofer Purnell –

February 16, 2022 | 3:19pm

MANILA, Philippines — Following in the steps of 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” Kenneth Branagh returns to direct and star as Agatha Christie’s famous quirky detective Hercule Poirot, exchanging a train for a boat ride in “Death on the Nile.”

In this new film, Poirot finds himself included in a private party, a newly-wed honeymoon celebration. However, a nighttime murder prompts the detective into action as more people come into danger.

It should come as no surprise that Branagh really enjoys playing Poirot, going as much as to show a black-and-white backstory as to how he obtained his famous mustache —unfortunately, this wartime prologue is the most interesting part of the entire movie.

“Murder on the Orient Express” was very much a classic mystery that appealed to older viewers, and one can very much expect the same turnout in this film. It also doesn’t help that the whodunnit crown currently rests on Rian Johnson, whose “Knives Out” is getting a sequel on Netflix later this year.

The film itself also faces difficulties because of the inclusion of Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Letitia Wright, and an almost unrecognizable and serious Russell Brand. The first two had little chemistry, while it was Wright — if not the lovely acting chops of Annette Benning and Sophie Okonedo — that lived up to potential.

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To make matters worse, the movie was heavily delayed due to the pandemic and the huge reliance on CGI distracts from the case at hand. At least Branagh gets to milk every tense and emotional moment as he unravels the mystery during the climax.

Branagh is a very respectable filmmaker especially when it comes to Shakespearean projects, and his “Belfast” is up for seven nominations at the Oscars. But if his Poirot was enough to guarantee this sequel, then maybe he might have done enough to ensure another.

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