Despite Kenneth Branagh’s Ambition, ‘A Haunting in Venice’ Can’t Break Out of Convention

Hercule Poirot is famously methodical and meticulous, counting on logic, motive, and – as Tina Fey’s Ariadne Oliver enthusiastically notes whereas shadowing the detective throughout one in all his many interrogations in A Haunting in Venice – “lists!” to unravel knotty homicide mysteries. By far essentially the most attention-grabbing side of the well-known Belgian detective’s third outing, via the lens of the more and more assured Oscar-winning actor-director Kenneth Branagh, is the problem that the religious world poses to his rational beliefs.

A Haunting in Venice, loosely primarily based on Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel Hallowe’en Celebration, places Poirot on the heart of a fencing match between the bodily and metaphysical worlds, playfully-yet-earnestly introducing a horror aspect to the star and filmmaker’s ever-growing (in each amount and high quality) thriller sequence.

Our story begins on Hallows’ Eve, within the nooks and crannies of essentially the most lovely but secretive metropolis on this planet: Venice. Poirot is approached by thriller novelist and long-time buddy Ariadne to attend a séance, hosted by Kelly Reilly’s Rowena Drake so as to talk together with her diseased daughter, Alice (Rowan Robinson). The medium conducting it, Joyce Reynolds, is among the most coveted in her career, performed fantastically if briefly by Michelle Yeoh. As a personality, she’s a counterpoint to Poirot’s unbelieving nature, a bridge to a world he’s adamant doesn’t exist.

Picture through twentieth Century Studios

Additionally attending the gathering are Alice’s standoffish ex-fiancé Maxime (Kyle Allen), the spiritual housekeeper Olga (Camille Cottin), the Drake household physician Leslie (Jamie Dornan) and his off-putting son Leopold (Jude Hill), Poirot’s trusty bodyguard Mr. Portfoglio (Riccardo Scamarcio), and the psychic’s assistants Desdemona and Nicholas (Emma Laird and Ali Khan). The religious session takes place in a seemingly haunted palazzo, a former orphanage the place youngsters are mentioned to have been locked up and left to die in the course of the Black Demise, and which the Drakes now personal. The proper state of affairs to boost the occult and to place a demotivated Poirot to the take a look at.

The protagonist, drained and introduced down by the fixed presence of loss of life in his life (whether or not via the murders he’s tasked to unravel, or the 2 World Wars he’s needed to dwell via), is challenged, right here, to be the closest he’s ever been to the lifeless, communicate on to them, and even look them proper within the eye. The hauntings, albeit questionable for causes we is not going to point out so as to preserve the thriller alive, drive him to interrupt out of his stupor and rethink his method to his career. It’s additionally a case difficult sufficient to ruffle his feathers and re-ignite his urge for food for investigating.

Branagh’s directing does a largely ample job of exploring these advanced concepts, creating – throughout most of its runtime – a genuinely intriguing and spine-chilling film. The pictures and manufacturing design stand out, even when sometimes leaning in direction of self-indulgence. They draw inspiration from noir and German Expressionism, skillfully using gentle and shadow not solely to ascertain the temper but additionally to disclose the characters’ most malevolent tendencies.

a haunting in venice
Picture through twentieth Century Studios

There’s a real try at elevating this third Poirot movie, infusing it with a stronger and extra refined artistic imaginative and prescient, however Michael Greene’s screenplay is just not robust sufficient to not be fully drowned out within the course of. The ensemble is just not significantly attention-grabbing, except for Fey’s crafty author and grafter Ariadne, who had nice chemistry with Branagh/Poirot, in addition to Cottin’s pearl-clutching housekeeper and Hill’s precocious Leopold, who additionally emerge as vibrant spots. The homicide thriller itself is just not a lot of a thriller in any respect, and though the horror components add to its ambition, in addition they very a lot act like smoke and mirrors to cover a homicide plot that, in the long run, seems fairly primary. Time and time once more, in an try and scare, threads are created that by no means get a decision. The buildup is simply too nice and too efficient for such a bland and rushed conclusion, turning engagement and pleasure into disappointment.

Nonetheless, it’s plain that director Branagh understands the dramatics of the style in addition to town he selected to stage it on this time round. Because the main man and the viewers’s window into the case he’s making an attempt to unravel, he succeeds as a counterpoint to his perpetual rival, Sherlock Holmes, by no means diverting consideration from the puzzle and towards himself. Deliberately or not, Branagh’s Poirot comes throughout as extra subdued, much less of a showman, which diminishes the character’s charisma but additionally aids the viewer in focusing solely on the duty at hand; fixing the homicide.

A Haunting in Venice is the most effective in Branagh’s Poirot sequence by an extended shot. It captures Venice fantastically, successfully thrilling the viewer and elevating attention-grabbing questions in regards to the realms of the dwelling and the lifeless. If something, it’s a fantastic film to look at this Halloween, and a good addition to each his physique of labor and the homicide thriller style.


Hercule Poirot comes out to play once more on this horror-leaning homicide thriller which, regardless of wanting nice, is held again by an underwhelming plot.