A Haunting in Venice Review: Hercule Poirot used to be known for his walk, but now he moves differently. The work of Kenneth Branagh has changed like a symphony. The last time we saw Branagh’s perfect Belgian beard was in “Death on the Nile,” which came out 18 months ago. But this second Poirot movie, directed by the great actor and took almost three years longer than 20th Century Studios, was held up by COVID-19 and politics in the film business.
During this time, Branagh worked in many fields and won an Oscar for “Belfast.” He spent a lot of time between parts thinking about himself, which changed the way his previous Agatha Christie versions were made. “A Haunting in Venice” is less intense than “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Death on the Nile,” which used CGI and elaborate sets to move viewers. In his third Poirot movie, Branagh emphasizes the mood and tone more than big action scenes. Because Venice is so beautiful, the show is interesting. People walking along Venice’s canals at night say it feels spooky.
The tone and theme of the movie changed the most. Branagh plays with the Gothic film style in this scary drama with a terrible name. In Poirot’s Venice, the 19th-century setting mixes with heated conversations about World War II. It’s a mix of crazy camera settings and confessions told with candles. Because of how he changed, Branagh’s Poirot is the most scary.
“A Haunting in Venice” is set in 1947, ten years after the first movie. Poirot is retired and lives alone when we first meet him. The days are full of dull egg meals and sadness. The ghostly Hercule, played by Branagh, doesn’t believe in ghosts. Ariadne Oliver, a writer played by Tina Fey, who wrote murder mystery books based on Poirot’s investigations, sees this doubt. On the morning of Halloween, she dares Hercule to prove that Michelle Yeoh’s psychic is inaccurate.
That night, the chance comes up quickly when Joyce Reynolds and her assistant, Emma Laird, are hired to call up the soul of a young girl who has just died. Either the girl killed herself, or ghosts were playing with their house. On Halloween night, a scene is held. The mourning mother, the fiancé who was dumped, the doctor who said the girl was dead, the loyal maid, and even a young child who can talk to the dead are all there. As long-buried secrets are uncovered, the line between natural and magical reasons for death becomes blurrier. Poirot starts to wonder about the supernatural when he finds a new body.
Like Branagh’s other versions of Christie’s books, “A Haunting in Venice” stars well-known people. Michelle Yeoh plays a mysterious psychic medium in her first movie, which won an Oscar. She acts like a queen, but she doesn’t look like one. But the way she looks makes people suspicious.
The most likely person to do it is Tina Fey. Fey plays Ariadne Oliver with a calm charm from a solid American drawl and a minor screwball cadence. This makes her look like a performer, even though she has never read the book. This contrasts Branagh’s serious Poirot, making for an exciting contrast that gives both movies a surprising appeal despite their flaws.
In “Murder on the Orient Express,” Branagh played the detective with a lot of feeling. In contrast to Rian Johnson’s recent silly whodunit, Branagh treated the locked room mystery like a Shakespearean tragedy. Back then, some people might have wondered if these killings were actual.
After three movies, it’s cute that Branagh keeps making Poirot’s trips into high-stakes plays. Branagh wants Poirot’s famous beard to show that he is a genius who lives alone and has a sixth sense of murder. It does well in a gothic setting where people have a lot of crazy ideas about what happens after death.
Even though it’s 100 minutes long, the movie is slow and tense. Still, the efforts to get into full-on terror look awkward and sloppy. Even though the film is rated PG-13, the quick cuts don’t hide Branagh’s jump scares.
Despite what the ads say, “A Haunting in Venice” is not a scary movie. Even though it’s creepy, it’s a great whodunit. This makes it easy to solve, and the answer may seem like it should be clear.
“A Haunting in Venice” has an unfathomable charm because of Branagh’s unwavering commitment to Poirot. You don’t think the character is deep, but you still want to go to a seance with him.
The movie “A Murder in Venice” comes out on September 15.