THE latest A Haunting in Venice undoubtedly emerges as the crowning achievement in Kenneth Branagh’s series of Hercule Poirot adaptations. Within his illustrious filmography, I could say this film undoubtedly ranks as one of his most outstanding creations.
This cinematic gem marks the third installment in which Branagh takes on the dual roles of director and star, bringing Poirot’s investigative prowess back to the screen. Having previously ventured into Poirot’s world with Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, this third chapter presents a new and intriguing challenge.
Certainly, the credit for this achievement is largely attributed to the remarkable collaboration between Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green, who approached Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party with the utmost respect and admiration.
They skillfully seized the opportunity to create a film that not only exudes exceptional intelligence but also boasts a visually opulent aesthetic reminiscent of classic cinema. Incorporating cutting-edge technology to improve the film’s quality and presentation, they create a nostalgic and innovative cinematic experience.
Despite that, they are still able to remain faithful to the essence of Christie’s original source material while delivering a truly immersive and captivating cinematic journey for audiences.
The exceptional role of Poirot
In A Haunting in Venice, Branagh’s portrayal of Poirot presents him as a retired and somewhat reluctant detective who becomes entangled in a seance, a gathering event designed to connect with the departed. His involvement starts with a compelling request from Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), a renowned best-selling author who appears at his doorstep seeking his assistance.
Her request is straightforward: she wants Poirot’s help in debunking the alleged supernatural abilities of Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), a well-known celebrity medium who will be leading the séance.
The event is hosted by the renowned opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), driven by her desire to communicate with her late daughter, Alicia Drake (Rowan Robinson). However, the seemingly supernatural gathering takes a dark turn when a gruesome murder occurs, suggesting a hidden agenda at play.
In this storyline, Branagh embarks on a ghostly and unfamiliar journey, incorporating elements often associated with horror films. While donning his detective persona, he is thrust back into action, racing against time to uncover the perpetrator before the night concludes.
Branagh’s portrayal of Poirot is infused with a sense of reluctance and curiosity, creating a character who is not only a masterful detective but also a complex and multidimensional individual.
As the narrative unfolds, viewers can anticipate being deeply immersed in Branagh’s skilful direction, Green’s intricate storytelling, and the captivating blend of suspense, mystery and supernatural elements.
This “whodunnit” undeniably serves as a testament to Branagh’s unwavering commitment to bringing the beloved Belgian detective to life with profound respect for Christie’s legacy while simultaneously captivating and engaging modern audiences.
One of the aspects that truly resonates with me in this genre of film is the intricate detective work, the enigmatic nature of the mystery, and the intellectual challenge of deciphering seemingly inscrutable puzzles. Even though I haven’t delved into the depths of many iconic Agatha Christie novels, I find the film to be equally engaging, replete with captivating plots and an aura of intrigue that keeps me hooked.
When the storyline unfolds into a mystery riddle where every character present becomes a potential suspect, it immediately sparks a sense of excitement and suspense reminiscent of cinematic gems like Knives Out, Clue, Sherlock Holmes and Murder Mystery. This gripping vibe pulls the audience into the story’s secrets and revelations.
Furthermore, the film benefits from an exceptional cast, including the Oscar-winning Yeoh, whose commitment to her role adds a perfect touch to the narrative.
Clarity of vision and concept
Apart from that, it’s impossible to deny the exceptional art direction and the overall atmosphere of the film. It possesses all the elements one would expect in a horror movie, to the extent that a quick glance at the trailer would easily convince anyone of its terrifying credentials.
The film effectively creates a haunting and disquieting environment primarily through its adept use of lighting and subtle background elements like rain and shadows. This allows it to establish an eerie atmosphere without resorting to the overtly Gothic characteristics typically associated with Dracula’s castle.
While it’s accurate to say that some of the moments meant to frighten the audience rely on jump scares, the careful and gradual buildup to the murder, coupled with the lasting sense of unease it generates is executed with exceptional skill.
A Haunting in Venice is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh
CAST: Kenneth Branagh, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Michelle Yeoh, Riccardo Scamarcio
E-VALUE : 7
ACTING : 8
PLOT : 9