I am not sure if Kenneth Branagh is looking to make a franchise out of the Inspector Poirot series, but if so this is certainly a promising continuation to such a series. The film begins with a scene showing Poirot’s experience in World War I, which left him scarred and showed his cleverness in recognizing patterns and responding to them. After that the film looks at the dangers and problems of obsessive love in an encounter at a nightclub in London and then a romantic honeymoon in Egypt that turns murderous while Poirot is involved in multiple cases. While he is the main character in a stellar ensemble cast, Branagh’s Poirot is sometimes caught flat-footed despite his own obsessiveness to detail in hunting down clues to an escalating body count. If the case is eventually solved, he is called out on some of his own character and personality flaws, and it is striking that apart from the initial murder, everyone else who is killed ends up also being a kind of evildoer–a blackmailer, a thief, or a murderer, which likely has something to do with Christie’s own moral code as an author.
This is a movie whose action is compelling and whose character analysis is profound. In order to fully understand the story, it requires a deft interpretation of the early meet cute where the impecunious Mr. Doyle is introduced to the glamorous star who becomes his wife after a whirlwind romance. What appears at first to be a betrayal then is seen in another light as being a deliberate setup. Similarly, what appears at first to be an obsessed lover’s distraught attack on the one she loves ends up being a furtherance to the plans of them both. This, again, is not necessarily obvious at the beginning but becomes obvious later on. This sort of slow-building movie, punctuated by Poirot’s combative logic, is not going to be to everyone’s taste, but if it is to your taste there is a lot to enjoy here and one hopes for more where that came from.