Agatha Christie novels translate to film extremely well and has been recently solidified through Oscar winning director/producer/actor Kenneth Branagh taking command of lead character Hercule Poirot. Branagh has doned the mustache and chapeau for Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile and the his most recent A Haunting in Venice. This time Poirot has to come to grips with the fact everyone has a ghost to acknowledge that is real or imagined. What you decide to do with them in the end is what matters.
It is all Hallows’ Eve in an eerie Venice in the years following World War II, where celebrated sleuth, Hercule Poirot, now resides, retired, and living in self-imposed exile. His experiences in crime, investigation, and seeing the worst of humanity via another war, have caused him to give up spending time doing everything to avoid thinking about crime. Of course, crime comes to him.
As luck would have it, an old friend, the world’s number one mystery writer Ariadne Oliver visits wanting him to join her at a séance proving that it is not real. Despite his better judgment, Poirot reluctantly agrees to attend the séance at a decaying, haunted palazzo owned by famed opera singer Rowena Drake. When one of the guests is murdered, the guests in attendance are all considered suspects, thrusting the Belgian detective into a sinister world of shadows and secrets.
Christie films are largely predictable. We are introduced to a murder and spend the bulk of the film deciding who the culprit is by reasonable deduction and elimination through the eyes and dialogue of Hercule Poirot. The thrill is figuring it all out and with A Haunting in Venice the guilty party will surprise you in the end making for a interestingly intriguing journey. What a great way to start out spooky season!
With an all star cast lead by Branagh, each performance is solid and interesting taking most of these actors out of the comfort zone we have seen them embody like Michelle Yeoh. Yeoh goes full throttle as the possessed seance medium and the cinematography aides immensely in that accomplishment.
What I love most about these Branagh incarnations is that with each chapter we learn something more about a man who seems confidently guarded, When in fact, he is just as vulnerable as the rest of us, giving his character more depth and breadth to the story being told. As petty as this may be, I was elated that someone actually pronounced my hometown St. Louis properly. I literally almost stood up and cheered.
Serving as an travel ad for Venice, while simultaneously armed with masterful direction, production design, sets, costumes, makeup and fisheye lens cinematography giving wonderfully interesting visual aesthetics. A Haunting in Venice is definitely a cinematic feast for the movie goer who loves thriller, murder mysteries and the prowess of Agatha Christie.