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Think of "Death on the Nile" as a do-over for director/star Kenneth Branagh, who botched his "Murder on the Orient Express" but gets just about everything right with this second remake of an Agatha Christie novel/film.

The new "Nile" differs from the witty 1978 adaptation, which features glittering performances from Peter Ustinov (as detective Hercule Poirot), Angela Lansbury and Maggie Smith. It's worth seeing for its snarky one-liners and sumptuous costumes and for one of Christie's cleverest feats of misdirection.

The new movie is not very amusing but a funnier version still exists so it makes sense to go in a different direction. This "Nile" invents a back story for Poirot, exploring the sentimental streak that was always there in the books. A flashback to World War I suggests why Poirot was especially sympathetic to the difficulties of young lovers and complements the mystery of "Death on the Nile," which takes place on a wedding cruise through Egypt, where the groom's ex makes a surprising and deadly appearance.

The air of melancholy also suits an unusually high corpse count for Christie, with almost half of the characters ending up in body bags. Everyone on the cruise ship has reason to think ill of the bride (Gal Gadot) or groom (Armie Hammer), including a blues singer (Sophie Okonedo, lip-syncing to Sister Rosetta Tharpe recordings), a society matron (Annette Bening) and the bride's socialist aunt (comedian Jennifer Saunders, underscoring the moody tone by never once being funny). So there are plenty of suspects.

For reasons that have little to do with the film, the most suspect of the suspects may be the groom. Branagh made "Death on the Nile" well before "Belfast" but its 2020 release was repeatedly delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of Hammer, whose private life made salacious headlines. Fortunately, he's not too distracting in a colorless role.

Poirot often said he could solve any mystery without leaving his chair but "Orient Express" tried to reinvent him as a geriatric action hero, gallivanting around Europe on the trail of a killer. Branagh abandons that here, in favor of a psychological portrait of someone realizing the life he has chosen is a lonely one. Poirot can claim he's through with love but, as the saying goes, denial is not just a river in Egypt that he's cruising on in a ship that looks like a floating chandelier.

Branagh plays fair with viewers, lingering over crucial clues to make sure they register, and he gives "Nile" a sense of place that the 1978 film lacked. I love that movie, which is larkier than the current one. But I prefer Branagh's earnest performance to Ustinov's tongue-in-cheek one because the former makes clear that there's lots more to reveal about the character.

The actor captures the gravity and romantic spirit of Poirot, who realizes some important truths in this story and who said, in Agatha Christie's "Death on the Nile" although not in this movie: "It is not the past that matters but the future."

'Death on the Nile'

*** out of 4 stars

Rated: PG-13 for violence.

Where: In area theaters.