A Haunting in Venice
It is rare for a film series to improve its footing 3 movies in. But that is precisely what Kenneth Branagh has accomplished with this year’s A Haunting in Venice, his 3rd directing / starring outing as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot (after 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express and 2022’s Death on the Nile.) This is a focused and taut film that benefits immensely from both its gorgeous location and more supernatural tone compared to past films. While Agatha Christie obsessives may leave wishing for a more of a standard murder-plot adventure, many will find this a thrilling kick-off for the 2023 Halloween season.
The film directly follows 2022’s Death on the Nile and finds Detective Poirot enjoying retirement within the canals of Venice. His services are still in great demand (as evidenced by the constant line of hopeful clients) but he has lost his faith. When he is approached by his old friend and novelist Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey, in a thinly veiled nod to author Agatha Christie), we know it can’t be long before the body count begins to climb.
As with the previous 2 films, the cast is stacked top to bottom. Despite the big-name actors, the characters outside Poirot are all thinly drawn. Kelly Reilly smolders as the grieving mother. Tina Fey gets a good laugh line or two as the Agatha Christie stand-in. Michelle Yeoh is the standout as the potential medium Joyce Reynolds, the only character that is really allowed to go toe to toe with Poirot (and even then, only briefly)
While the characters are thin, the atmosphere and cinematography of the film are incredibly lush – they are the real stars of the show. I would have bet you good money this film had a different cinematographer from the last two – the difference in style is night and day. But it is still Haris Zambarloukos at the helm, so all I can say is keep it up! Venice does a lot of the heavy lifting, of course, but there’s more to it than that. The first two films leveraged green-screen extensively, whereas Haunting is grounded and has a sense of place. The tone of the film is much more focused, and almost every scene contains rich imagery. I loved the way the suspense of the potential supernatural was implied in every scene – walls and windows of the palazzo creak and seem alive in a manner reminiscent of old Hollywood. No need for CGI thrills here. How great was the imagery? I could watch this movie with absolutely no dialogue and still enjoy myself immensely.
For many, the joy of a mystery film is in figuring out the solution before the detective. The case at the core of Haunting may not be complicated enough to satisfy all the sleuths in the theater, but the film is good enough they’ll certainly get another chance to see Poirot in action very soon. Here’s hoping the arthouse vibe of the series is here to stay!
The unsettling supernatural thriller based upon the novel “Hallowe’en Party” by Agatha Christie and directed by and starring Oscar® winner Kenneth Branagh as famed detective Hercule Poirot, will open in theaters nationwide on September 15, 2023.
“A Haunting in Venice” is set in eerie, post-World War II Venice on All Hallows’ Eve, “A Haunting in Venice” is a terrifying mystery featuring the return of the celebrated sleuth, Hercule Poirot. Now retired and living in self-imposed exile in the world’s most glamorous city, Poirot reluctantly attends a séance at a decaying, haunted palazzo. When one of the guests is murdered, the detective is thrust into a sinister world of shadows and secrets.
Reuniting the team of filmmakers behind 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express” and 2022’s “Death on the Nile,” the film is directed by Kenneth Branagh with a screenplay by Oscar® nominee Michael Green (“Logan”) based upon Agatha Christie’s novel Hallowe’en Party. The producers are Kenneth Branagh, Judy Hofflund, Ridley Scott, and Simon Kinberg, with Louise Killin, James Prichard, and Mark Gordon serving as executive producers. A brilliant acting ensemble portrays a cast of unforgettable characters, including Kenneth Branagh, Kyle Allen (“Rosaline”), Camille Cottin (“Call My Agent”), Jamie Dornan (“Belfast”), Tina Fey (“30 Rock”), Jude Hill (“Belfast”), Ali Khan (“6 Underground”), Emma Laird (“Mayor of Kingstown”), Kelly Reilly (“Yellowstone”), Riccardo Scamarcio (“Caravaggio’s Shadow”), and recent Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”).