A Haunting in Venice

#Review: A Haunting in Venice

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It’s that time ladies and gentlemen, for another Poirot murder mystery directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Kenneth Branagh. This time the location is Venice and events are taking a more supernatural turn. This is A Haunting in Venice.

It’s 1947 and Hercule Poirot (Branagh) has officially retired. It’s likely due to the events of the previous film, Death on the Nile, as he seems particularly disillusioned with the world. Having walled himself off in a house in Venice, only venturing out for pastries, he wants to be left alone. Unfortunately for him, his old friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) wishes to get him out of this funk. As well as get his help with research for a new book of hers.

They are to attend a séance and try and prove the practitioner is a phoney because if Hercule Poirot can’t prove her a flimflam, she must be the real deal, right? And so the two friends are off to a unique Halloween party. What will they find there? Murder of course. However, is an out-of-practice Hercule Poirot up for the task?

A Haunting in Venice is a fascinating film. There are many differences with regard to the previous entries. One notable difference is the film does not rely on an absolutely star-studded cast. It can be seen as a strength and a weakness. The reason is that the film has to rely on the strength of the story, which is already a lesser-known Christie novel, and for the most part it’s interesting. The cast is also an eclectic one. Stars like Jamie Dornan, Michelle Yeoh and Kelly Reilly are some of the bigger names to fill out this supposedly haunted palazzo.

A Haunting in Venice feels aesthetically so different from the previous films. It’s much darker, there’s a heavier mood around it and the supernatural element is pushed hard. It’s to make both Poirot and the audience feel unease. And for the most part, it works. This makes me come to one of the problems of the film, Tina Fey’s Ariadne Oliver. Fey plays her as more of a caricature than an actual character. You rarely take her seriously, even when the narrative calls for it. Thankfully, towards the climax of the film, something happens and she is redeemed.

Once again Branagh is bringing his A-game as Poirot. With three films in now, he has lived this character and it’s great to see him back in the iconic moustache. The film is filled with great performances from actors I’ve never seen before. The MVP of A Haunting in Venice is young Jude Hill, who many may know from Belfast (another Branagh film). He’s brilliant as this all too grown-up child. He takes care of his father (played by Jamie Dornan) who is suffering from unseen wounds from his time serving during World War II. Their rapport is fantastic and heartbreaking.

Overall, I have to say A Haunting in Venice is a lot of fun. It has some issues with the narrative being somewhat predictable as well as some of the characters being overplayed tropes. However, it is sold on the strengths of its style and the writing of the majority of its cast. Branagh has tapped into that element all fans of murder mysteries adore, the characters within. And when all was said and done I found myself once again excited for the next adventure for Hercule Poirot.

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