A Haunting in Venice follows world-renowned detective Hercule Poirot to Italy to unearth the mystery of a young girl’s death and a supposedly haunted house! Over the last six years Kenneth Branagh has quietly put together an incredibly entertaining trilogy of Agatha Christie’s works, each film highlighting a different and integral aspect of Christie’s writing. With a smaller and less high-profile cast, Branagh focuses more on the intimate details of the characters and their backgrounds without fear of A-listers all competing for screentime. Branagh continues to perform double duty as director and star, finding more self-assurance in both roles and delivering the most accurate version of Poirot in his tenure.
Finding himself tired of working cases and needing to spend some time on himself, detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) has headed to Venice to take in the sights and live as the Italians do. When an old colleague and mystery novelist (Tina Fey) comes to convince him to watch a séance to debunk a medium who’s set to speak to a young woman who’d died mysteriously a year prior. When murder interrupts communication with the dead, it’s up to Poirot to force himself out of retirement and yet again solve the crime that no one else could!
Taking things back to the BBC basics, A Haunting in Venice is a far more straightforward mystery than the previous two films and truly feels like a very honest adaptation of the source material it’s based on. Ironically, Venice is a pseudo-adaptation borrowing elements and characters of Christie’s but moving them to post-war Venice and an eerie Palazzo. Promising more frights this time around with a Halloween setting, I was somewhat disappointed by the “scares” employed in the film and the accompanying score which never really raised any hairs. Despite not delivering on the horror thrills the film is extremely intriguing as the layers of the crimes continue to reveal themselves, leaving you searching for clues on-screen and within the words of the characters.
The film’s greatest strength comes from Branagh’s brilliant performance as a man who’s seen too much despair in one lifetime but knows it will likely always follow him in his work. It feels like he really embodied the essence of Poirot in his mannerisms and delivery, heightened by his crafty camera work and how he framed certain scenes. Using the full view of the rooms that he shot in, Branagh puts the whole painting in front of your face and subtly works within the confines to expose the truth behind the many mysteries that lie underneath the surface. Combined with even pacing and enough twists to turn your head, A Haunting in Venice is quite an enjoyable mystery feature that doesn’t ever overdo or overcomplicate its narrative. It may feel more bare bones than the previous two entries but that’s certainly made up for in the more captivating mystery taking place in Venice!
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