“A Haunting in Venice”: Kenneth Branagh’s Best Poirot Film Yet

Kenneth Branagh Infuses Agatha Christie with a Supernatural Twist
In *A Haunting in Venice*, Kenneth Branagh returns as Hercule Poirot for the third time, delivering his most compelling and atmospheric take on Agatha Christie’s beloved detective. This supernatural thriller diverges from Branagh’s previous classic murder mysteries, infusing the story with ghostly elements that elevate it beyond the solid yet somewhat bland nature of his earlier films.
A Refreshing Shift in Tone and Genre
Departing from Christie’s well-known works, *Murder on the Orient Express* and *Death on the Nile*, *A Haunting in Venice* draws from the lesser-known 1969 novel *Hallowe’en Party*. Screenwriter Michael Green takes significant liberties with the source material, crafting a more inventive, surprising, and engaging narrative. The film benefits from this shift, leaning into supernatural elements that add depth and intrigue.
Poirot’s Return in Venice
In *A Haunting in Venice*, Poirot has retired, isolating himself in the picturesque city and refusing new cases. This retirement allows Branagh to portray a more introspective and lived-in Poirot, free from unnecessary backstory and mustache origin tales. The film’s central plot kicks off when mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) convinces Poirot to attend a Halloween party and seance at the palazzo of opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly). The event aims to contact the spirit of Rowena’s daughter, Alicia (Rowan Robinson), who recently committed suicide.
A Haunting Setting and Cinematic Excellence
The palazzo, transformed into a haunted house by Branagh and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, becomes a character in its own right. Zambarloukos uses inventive shot setups, including fish-eye lenses, tilted frames, and dramatic angles, to create a disorienting and eerie atmosphere. This approach contrasts with the opulent settings of *Orient Express* and *Nile*, making *Venice* a more visually and emotionally compelling experience.
A Strong Ensemble Cast
Branagh leads a talented ensemble, with Michelle Yeoh standing out as the enigmatic medium Mrs. Reynolds. Yeoh’s performance keeps viewers guessing, balancing between skepticism and belief. Camille Cottin’s housekeeper Olga Seminoff and Jamie Dornan’s troubled doctor Leslie Ferrier add depth to the cast. Dornan’s chemistry with Jude Hill, who plays his precocious son Leopold, is particularly noteworthy, continuing the father-son dynamic from *Belfast*.
Tina Fey’s Surprising Performance
Tina Fey delivers one of her strongest performances in years as Ariadne Oliver, a fictionalized version of Agatha Christie. Fey’s portrayal is lively and nuanced, blending vanity and wit. Her transatlantic accent and immersion into the period setting defy expectations, adding another layer of surprise to the film.
A Thrilling and Surprising Narrative
What sets *A Haunting in Venice* apart is its willingness to surprise and engage viewers with genuine moments of horror. Unlike the more predictable *Orient Express* and *Nile*, *Venice* uses jump scares and eerie sequences to explore themes of grief, trauma, and loss. The film emphasizes the psychological hauntings of its characters over supernatural scares, making it a more profound and thought-provoking experience.
Conclusion: A Perfect Halloween Treat
*Venice* combines atmosphere, spookiness, and a strong narrative to create a thoroughly enjoyable film. Its thematic depth, strong performances, and inventive cinematography make it Kenneth Branagh’s best Poirot film yet. Perfect for a Halloween viewing, *A Haunting in Venice* offers a delightful blend of mystery, thriller, and supernatural elements. 

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