Kenneth Branagh has finally redeemed himself with his latest Agatha Christie adaptation, "A Haunting in Venice." After the disappointing "Murder On The Orient Express" and "Death On The Nile," Branagh has delivered a film that is surefooted, with strong performances and a luxurious-yet-frightful tone. This time, Branagh is not burdened by high expectations, as "A Haunting in Venice" is based on the largely ignored Christie title, "Hallowe'en Party," which received negative reviews when it was published in 1969.
In this new adaptation, Branagh and screenwriter Michael Green have relocated the story from Britain to Venice, adding more romance and spookiness to the film. The plot revolves around Hercule Poirot, played by Branagh himself, who is now retired and living in Italy. Poirot is approached by American novelist Ariadne Oliver, portrayed by Tina Fey, to attend a Halloween party hosted by Rowena Drake, a wealthy British woman played by Kelly Reilly. The party includes a seance conducted by a medium named Mrs. Reynolds, played by Michelle Yeoh, in an allegedly haunted Venetian palazzo.
However, the festivities take a sinister turn when a murder occurs during the party, forcing Poirot to once again use his detective skills to uncover the truth. The list of suspects includes Dr. Leslie Ferrier, played by Jamie Dornan, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has feelings for Rowena; Nicholas and Desdemona, immigrant siblings who dream of escaping to Missouri and work for Mrs. Reynolds; Olga Seminoff, Rowena's caretaker; and Ferrier's young son, Leopold, portrayed by Jude Hill.
Unlike previous adaptations, the acting in "A Haunting in Venice" is praised as exceptional, with each actor delivering compelling performances that contribute to the film's atmosphere of terror. Tina Fey brings a refreshing lightness to her role, while Michelle Yeoh embodies the supernatural elements of the story effortlessly. Jamie Dornan's portrayal of a traumatized doctor constantly improves, showcasing his talent beyond his role in "Fifty Shades of Grey." Additionally, Jude Hill, who recently made a strong debut in Branagh's "Belfast," continues to impress with his acting skills.
Although the ending of "A Haunting in Venice" is deemed absurd by some, the film's entertaining journey outweighs any concerns about the resolution. Branagh's direction successfully combines superstition, Gothic horror, and the classic murder mystery genre. The change in location from London to Venice adds an extra layer of intrigue and allure to the film.
Overall, "A Haunting in Venice" marks Branagh's most wickedly entertaining take on Poirot yet. While some viewers may prefer the modern snark of films like "Knives Out," Branagh's dive into the supernatural and his portrayal of Poirot's strutting vanity are irresistible. The sinister atmosphere created by Branagh and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, with its canted angles and enveloping shadows, deserves special recognition.
In conclusion, "A Haunting in Venice" is a treat for fans of Agatha Christie's mysteries and a triumph for Kenneth Branagh, who has finally silenced his critics with this captivating adaptation. Whether it's the allure of Venice, the brilliant performances, or the blend of horror and mystery, there is simply no way to resist this haunting tale.
themes: Halloween Missouri