A Haunting in Venice
20th Century Studios
Written by Michael Green (Based on the novel by Agatha Christie)
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Dylan Corbett-Bader, Amir El-Masry, Riccardo Scamarcio, Camille Cottin, Kelly Reilly, Jude Hill, Rowen Robinson, Emma Laird and Fernando Piloni
In post-World War II Venice, Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer.
The first thing I can say about any of the Kenneth Branagh directed Poirot films is that they look incredible. Besides playing the main character, Branagh has a brilliant director’s eye for atmosphere and bringing the viewer into a scene. The visuals are immersive gems that make you feel like a member of the cast. Like you’re in the room where these things are happening to the characters and you might be next. There’s a great sense of engagement in that and it’s why I tend to enjoy these films the way I do.
The mystery at the heart of the film is interesting in how it directly affects Poirot both physically and mentally. Giving the character those limitations increases the drama and connects the viewer to the character more. Branagh does a great job as the character and you get the weariness he is dealing with trying to find some peace in his life, but knowing that there is something missing. Something that can only be found in solving a mystery.
The majority of the cast is amazing. Every actor gives a great performance. Tina Fey is fantastic as Oliver. She has great comedic timing and a wonderful and often charming way of needling Poirot into action. There is also an undercurrent of greed that comes from her that makes you question her motivations throughout the film. Michelle Yeoh commands the screen in her performance as the medium Joyce Reynolds. Jamie Dornan is haunting as the psychologically tortured Ferrier and Jude Hill gives a fantastic performance as Ferrier’s son Leopold. I wanted to see more of Kelly Reilly as Rowena Drake in the film because her performances are so memorable and dynamic in series like Yellowstone and this one felt too reserved to the point where she seemed to melt into the background. Something that actually works well for her character in the plot.
The mystery contains some interesting supernatural elements and Branagh does a great job of bringing those elements out giving the film a darker, more eerie tone that the previous two adventures of Poirot. Unfortunately, all of the flash doesn’t make up for the fact that the mystery itself is less than compelling. I’m not going to say that it was easy to solve as I was watching it, but the elements of the crime were less than subtle and didn’t have the same emotional punch as the previous films or even more modern mysteries like Knives Out.
Still, I enjoyed A Haunting in Venice a lot. It has all of the elements of some of the great classic movie mysteries including big stars, reveals and atmosphere. While this film might not be the strongest in the series, Branagh’s performance and direction make me want to see this character return on the big screen for another adventure.