Spooky season arrives early with Kenneth Branagh’s A Haunting in Venice, his latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series. Poirot, the meticulous Belgian detective with his signature mustache and penchant for solving intricate mysteries, has captivated readers for decades, and here Branagh continues to breathe new life into this beloved character, offering a fresh take on the detective’s adventures.
Poirot, now retired and living a tranquil life in Venice when his old friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) pays him a visit. Oliver is convinced the death of a young girl who fell from a window a year earlier was no accident, and she suspects the famous medium Mrs. Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) is involved. She invites Poirot to attend a séance the girl’s mother (Kelly Reilly) is holding, hoping he can uncover the truth. Reluctantly, Poirot agrees, but when a guest is murdered during the séance, he’s pulled back into the world of intrigue and danger. This case, however, may push Poirot to his limits as unexplainable supernatural occurrences unfold.
Like the previous two films in Branagh’s trilogy, A Haunting in Venice continues to showcase the director’s penchant for assembling a diverse ensemble cast, each bringing their unique charm and enhancing the depth and complexity of the characters they portray. The eclectic mix of characters, from the emotionally scarred doctor (Jamie Dornan) and his devoted son (Jude Hill) to the grieving and guilt-ridden housekeeper (Camille Cottin) and the former fiancé (Kyle Allen) with a grudge, adds layers of intrigue to the murder mystery. This ensemble not only elevates the storytelling but also ensures that A Haunting in Venice continues the tradition of delivering engaging performances that keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
A Haunting in Venice is also arguably the best-looking of Kenneth Branagh’s three Poirot films so far. Branagh’s frequent cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos (Cinderella, Belfast) makes a triumphant return, treating us to breathtaking exterior footage of the city of Venice, showcasing its iconic rooftops, sculptures, bridges, and walkways in all their glory. In fact, one of the film’s strengths lies in its avoidance of overusing CGI backdrops or artificial-looking scenes, which was a massive criticism in Branagh’s previous Poirot outing. And while Zambarloukos skillfully employs wide and sweeping angles, creating a compellingly otherworldly ambiance, there is still an occasional overreliance on Dutch angles, which, though disorienting, can become slightly distracting.
On the surface, this movie is a classic whodunit, with Hercule Poirot investigating the murder of a young girl during a Halloween party, but the film also explores the darker side of grief, and how it can lead people to do terrible things. The characters are all haunted by their own pasts, and the film’s atmosphere is both suspenseful and emotionally resonant. It is a ghost story, not so much in that there may be actual spirits at play, but rather because almost every character, including Poirot, has been affected by grief. Each carries skeletons they refuse to bury and this baggage haunts every movement they make, which ends up making the film feel both suspenseful and emotionally resonant.
Overall, A Haunting in Venice is a suspenseful and atmospheric supernatural thriller that’s sure to please fans of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Branagh’s previous adaptations. As a fan of murder mysteries I found the film to be a refreshing change of pace from previous films in the trilogy, with Branagh once again demonstrating his skills as a director capable of handling the detective genre. A definite recommendation to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, especially those looking for a film that explores the darker side of grief.