I love a whodunnit even when I know who did it. And who doesn’t know who did it in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile? It’s Kenneth Branagh’s second outing as the Belgium sleuth, with a tash so vigorous you wonder how it stays up. Branagh first cut his teeth as Poirot on Murder on the Orient Express back in 2017 where he introduced us to a more troubled, introspective private eye, quite different from the fastidious and slightly fey comic version we’ve come to expect. This time around we learn more about Poirot’s back story: a man scarred in every sense by the savage reality of the Great War. This isn’t quite as Agatha wrote it and, no doubt, purists will hate the update. When the elegant SS Karnak set forth once again on that fateful Nile cruise, many critics asked why bother? I, for one, enjoyed the choppy adventure.
With the remorseless horror in the Middle East being played out on our screens every day at 6pm, it’s hard to make sense of the senseless. The baffling case of the school girls who have allegedly travelled to Syria to become brides of ISIS only adds to my bewilderment. Sometimes, it takes humour to wade through the treacle – the British funny bone is a cultural characteristic forged by wartime adversity and a healthy disrespect for the respectable. Cue a recent Facebook exchange with a Bodrum Belle of my acquaintance.
“Hello, Jack, now where’s this new book of yours? Got myself a little girlie spa holiday booked to get away from frozen Bodrum. I need something to read so get printing. Bodrum is seriously cold this winter. Roll on spring. Me and a few gals are off to Egypt, and very cheap it is too, all 5 star inclusive tackiness. Why so cheap? Because the British Government says it’s unsafe and advises not to go. Well that doesn’t hold these gals down. If we do get taken as Jihadi brides, at least we can say we’re used to the heat.”
“Hello, love. The book’s with the designer. It’s not just thrown together, you know. Make sure you pack some sheets – just in case you need to wrap yourself in polycotton for the wedding. You’ll forgive me if I turn down the invitation to your nuptials…”
Nothing slaps you about the face better than God’s wrath in 3-D. I’m a sucker for a Hollywood style Biblical epic, particularly as the fairy tales of the Old Testament lend themselves to stunning special effects. So when Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’ was released, I was front of the queue. For the most part, the movie delivers on spectacle, making up in drama what it lacks in depth. The plagues sequence is particularly delicious as the God of Moses teaches Rameses a thing or two about divine power. The film has dumped the preachy gravitas of the Cecil B Mille’s 1956 ‘The Ten Commandments’. Christian Bale’s doubting Moses is much grittier than Charlton Heston’s pulpit-style rendition and is better suited to today’s more secular age. Depicting God as a ten year old boy is either inspired or daft (I’m still not sure which). Having the child resemble Damien from ‘The Omen’ is masterly.
According to the BBC, the film has been banned in Eqypt because of ‘historical inaccuracies’ (sorry?) – partly because the movie depicts the Hebrews slaving over a pair of pyramids (the construction of which ceased centuries before the alleged great escape). I’m glad to see that the religious censors are on the ball and standing up for the truth.