Kenneth Branagh‘s portrayal of Agatha Christie’s iconic Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, has been a mixed bag for fans and critics alike. With A Haunting in Venice, Branagh reprises his role for the third time, following Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and Death on the Nile (2022). This time, Poirot finds himself drawn into a chilling and mysterious tale set against the eerie backdrop of Venice during Halloween. While the film offers a visually captivating experience and a commendable performance from Branagh, it struggles to fully engage viewers due to its convoluted plot and an overabundance of characters.
The film finds Poirot, now retired and living in self-imposed exile in Venice, reluctantly attending a Halloween séance at a decaying and haunted palazzo. This setting immediately establishes a dark and atmospheric tone that sets the stage for the story to unfold. As the séance begins, the guests are introduced, each with their own secrets and quirks. Kyle Allen plays Maxime Gerard, Camille Cottin is Olga Seminoff, a mysterious Russian woman; Jamie Dornan portrays Dr. Leslie Ferrier, a psychiatrist with a troubled past; and Tina Fey takes on the role of Ariadne Oliver, a crime novelist and friend of Poirot.
Branagh, as Poirot, is once again a highlight of the film. His portrayal of the detective is both charming and enigmatic, capturing the essence of Christie’s character. Poirot’s meticulous attention to detail, impeccable fashion sense, and distinctive mustache are all on full display. Branagh’s performance, with his eloquent Belgian accent and sharp wit, is a testament to his commitment to the role.
The film’s strengths lie in its visual presentation. Venice serves as a stunning and haunting backdrop for the unfolding mystery. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos expertly captures the city’s unique atmosphere, with its winding canals, decaying palazzos, and dimly lit alleyways. The production design, costume design, and makeup teams deserve praise for their efforts in creating a visually captivating world. The film’s use of Halloween decorations and eerie lighting adds to the overall sense of foreboding, making it a perfect choice for a Halloween-themed thriller.
The ensemble cast is generally strong, with each actor delivering solid performances. Kyle Allen’s portrayal of Maxime Gerard is particularly intriguing, as he exudes an air of mystery that keeps the audience guessing about his true intentions. Camille Cottin brings a sense of elegance and intrigue to Olga Seminoff, and her chemistry with Branagh’s Poirot is palpable. Jamie Dornan offers a brooding and complex Dr. Leslie Ferrier, and Tina Fey brings a touch of humor and eccentricity to the character of Ariadne Oliver.
Additionally, the film explores deeper themes, such as guilt, redemption, and the consequences of one’s actions. These themes add depth to the characters and provide some thought-provoking moments amidst the mystery. However, these elements are not fully developed and could have been explored more thoroughly to enhance the overall narrative.
Where A Haunting in Venice falters is in its narrative execution. The film’s plot becomes increasingly convoluted as more secrets and motives are revealed. The large ensemble of characters, each with their own subplots, makes it challenging to keep track of who’s who and what they’re up to. While complexity is a hallmark of Christie’s mysteries, the film struggles to strike the right balance between intrigue and confusion. As a result, some viewers may find themselves lost in the labyrinthine plot, unable to fully immerse themselves in the mystery.
The pacing of the film is also uneven, with stretches of slow buildup punctuated by bursts of action and revelation. While the slow-burning tension works well in creating a sense of unease, it occasionally feels drawn out, testing the patience of the audience. Some viewers may find themselves wishing for a more streamlined and focused narrative.
Furthermore, the resolution of the mystery may leave some viewers feeling unsatisfied. Without giving away any spoilers, it’s fair to say that the climax and the ultimate reveal lack the impact and cleverness that one would expect from an Agatha Christie adaptation. The resolution feels rushed and somewhat contrived, as if the film is more interested in wrapping things up neatly than in delivering a satisfying and logical conclusion.
In terms of the film’s connection to Death on the Nile, A Haunting in Venice does reference events from the previous film, particularly Poirot’s emotional state. However, these connections are more superficial and do not significantly impact the plot of the new film. Viewers looking for a direct continuation of the story may be somewhat disappointed by the limited integration of these elements.
A Haunting in Venice offers a visually captivating experience with an atmospheric and haunting setting, as well as a commendable performance from Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot. However, the film’s convoluted plot and an overabundance of characters make it a challenging and at times frustrating viewing experience. While it may not reach the heights of some previous adaptations of Agatha Christie’s works, it still manages to provide an entertaining and stylish mystery for fans of the genre. If you can overlook its narrative shortcomings, it’s worth a watch for Branagh’s portrayal of the legendary detective and the atmospheric depiction of Venice.
A Haunting In Venice
- Acting - 7.5/107.5/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8/108/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 6.5/106.5/10
- Setting/Theme - 8/108/10
- Watchability - 7.5/107.5/10
- Rewatchability - 6/106/10