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‘A Haunting in Venice’ review

‘A Haunting in Venice’ carries a curious badge of honour – being the first trilogy directed entirely by national treasure Sir Kenneth Branagh. Also starring in the franchise as the legendary detective Hercule Poirot, it’s safe to say that Branagh has invested a lot of time and effort into this series of updated Agatha Christie big screen adaptations. 2017’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ was an interesting watch that offered up great potential for a future series of films. 2022’s ‘Death on the Nile’ fared less successfully, falling victim to not just story shortcomings, but off-screen cast PR problems and some truly awful CGI misfires. So this third Poirot case has quite a lot riding on it – and with that comes a welcome change of tone and a visual upgrade. ‘A Haunting in Venice’ is all the better for it, delivering the best film in this series, and a tale that utterly captivates throughout.

Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) has announced his retirement and is living the life of a recluse in the mysterious city of Venice, Italy. Spending his days avoiding constant calls for help from an adoring public that still clamour for the investigative skills of the infamous Belgian, Poirot is content with spending his days reading and eating fine Italian patisseries. That is, until an old friend and famed author Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) mysteriously appears at his door asking for his help to debunk a medium who claims to be able to contact the dead.

Adapted from Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel ‘Hallowe’en Party’, and transposed from rural England to picturesque Italy has given this story a fresh new breath of life. Marking the first time that this story has been adapted onto the big screen, ‘A Haunting in Venice’ is a wonderfully atmospheric and engrossing thriller that is perfectly suited to the broad canvas of cinema. It has a truly wonderful visual style that offers up an intellectual horror that, in many respects, is the perfect antidote to the lacklustre fodder that the genre has been plagued with for many a year. A solid, well-made film with beautiful cinematography throughout and filled to the brim with outstanding acting talent, ‘A Haunting in Venice’ is exactly what mainstream cinema has been missing out on… a thematic franchise for adults.  

I have always loved Kenneth Branagh’s work, and ‘A Haunting in Venice’ showcases why he is such a beloved talent. He is magnetic onscreen as Hercule Poirot, and this time around he is given an opportunity to showcase some more of the humour and quirks of the character. This is thanks to his keen direction, and the work of screenwriter Michael Greene who has done an exceptional job in relocating this ghostly tale to a setting that literally drips of gothic terror and beauty in every frame. Branagh has shot the film exceptionally well too, really giving it a tangible sense of mystery and purpose, populating every scene with a ghostly melancholy that suits the narrative perfectly.

The ensemble for ‘A Haunting in Venice’ seems much better assembled than in previous films. It’s star-studded in its own right, but this time around it feels far more tailored to serve the story at hand, compared with ‘Death on the Nile’. Tina Fey is excellent as brash author Ariadne Oliver, Michelle Yeoh steals her scenes as medium Mrs. Reynolds. Jamie Dornan adds some nice texture to the role of Dr. Leslie Ferrier, who is suffering from PTSD after the war. Riccardo Scamarcio smoulders as Poirot’s personal security guard Vitale Portfoglio, young Jude Hill steals his scenes as Leopold, Dr Ferrier’s wise-beyond-his-years son, and Kelly Reilly convinces as grieving mother Rowena Drake, whose cursed house plays host to the night’s frightful events.

With the success of ‘Knives Out’ and ‘Glass Onion’, it’s clear that a mature audience craves more than just superhero movies for their long-form cinematic entertainment needs. After thinking that this franchise was dead in the Nile, ‘A Haunting in Venice’ comes along and reinvigorates the series, delivering the best chapter in this trilogy so far, and reanimating our love for Branagh’s Poirot and his curious investigations. And as a fan of atmospheric horror, this film also delivers bountifully to give audiences a great option to explore for Halloween. ‘A Haunting in Venice’ is a brilliant thriller, a very exciting whodunit and a suitably creepy movie that has learnt lessons from past missteps to conjure up a tonally spot-on film, and one that will hopefully usher in more Poirot adventures with Branagh at the helm.

Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Yeoh, Tina Fey, Jamie Dornan, Riccardo Scamarcio, Kelly Reilly, Jude Hill, Camille Cottin, Emma Laird, Ali Khan, Rowan Robinson, Fernando Piloni Director: Kenneth Branagh Writer: Michael Green, Agatha Christie Certificate: 12A Duration: 103 mins Released by: Disney Release date: 15th September 2023

Jason Palmer
Jason Palmerhttp://www.entertainment-focus.com
Jason is a film contributor for Entertainment Focus (EF) bringing you the latest news and reviews from the movie world.

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‘A Haunting in Venice’ carries a curious badge of honour - being the first trilogy directed entirely by national treasure Sir Kenneth Branagh. Also starring in the franchise as the legendary detective Hercule Poirot, it’s safe to say that Branagh has invested a lot...'A Haunting in Venice' review