Tuesday 21 November 2023

REVIEW: A Haunting in Venice (2023 Film) - Starring Kenneth Branagh

Review by Jon Donnis
"A Haunting in Venice" (2023) emerges as Kenneth Branagh's intricate directorial and production venture, marking his reprisal of the role of Hercule Poirot in the third installment of the series, succeeding "Death on the Nile" (2022). Loosely drawing inspiration from Agatha Christie's "Hallowe'en Party," this film ventures into uncharted territory, introducing a darker and spookier ambiance.

The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of 1947, portraying Poirot in retirement, now residing in Venice. The aging detective is drawn into an enigmatic Halloween soirée hosted at the palatial residence of renowned opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly). What ensues is a labyrinthine tale interwoven with the echoes of wartime trauma, paranormal phenomena, and a perplexing murder that shatters the veneer of the Halloween festivities.

Branagh leads an ensemble cast, featuring talents such as Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, and others. While their performances contribute to the film's allure, some actors find themselves regrettably underutilized, a nuanced critique in an otherwise stellar ensemble.

The visual tapestry of "A Haunting in Venice" is skillfully crafted by cinematographer and Greek Cypriot legend Haris Zambarloukos, who captures the alluring essence of Venice and the palpable haunting atmosphere within the twisting walls of the palazzo. The cinematography becomes an artful dance between elegance and eeriness, creating a visual spectacle that adds depth to the overall cinematic experience.

In terms of plot, on Halloween, mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) convinces Poirot to attend a Halloween party and séance at the palazzo of famed opera singer Rowena Drake and to expose Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), a World War I army nurse turned medium, as a fraud. the film features detailed elements of a classic whodunit with a nuanced infusion of horror. As Poirot navigates the haunted confines of the palazzo during the Halloween festivities, the audience is treated to a tapestry of supernatural occurrences, wartime trauma, and psychological unraveling. The murder mystery becomes a canvas upon which the characters paint their stories, each layer revealing more about the complexities of human nature.

Despite the film's strengths, certain areas witness a struggle in character development. Some members of the ensemble cast are left wanting in terms of exploration, their potential overshadowed by the central mystery. The film's success in creating an atmospheric narrative comes at the cost of fully delving into the backgrounds and motivations of certain characters. I was also disappointed not to see more elements exposing the nature of spiritualist mediums and the physical séance itself, it almost feels as if they never bothered to ask an expert to help them craft some elements of the aspects of fraud into the film. Hey guys next time you make a film that features a medium being expose, how about giving me a shout. I exposed these frauds for 20+ years. Anyway back to the review.

Where the film truly shines is in its empathetic portrayal of post-war grief. The characters grapple with haunting memories, and the psychological toll of wartime experiences adds a layer of emotional depth to the narrative. This facet of the story transforms "A Haunting in Venice" from a mere murder mystery into a poignant exploration of the human psyche in the aftermath of conflict.

In conclusion, "A Haunting in Venice" stands as a worthy addition to the Poirot series. While it may not surpass the heights achieved by its predecessor, "Death on the Nile," the film is a commendable exploration of a darker and more complex side of the iconic detective. With its skillful cinematography, a compelling fusion of genres, and a stellar cast despite some underutilization, the movie secures its place as a notable installment in the cinematic universe of Hercule Poirot. I score A Haunting in Venice a decent 8 out of 10.

Pre-order on Blu-ray now at https://amzn.to/46pixLo
Watch at Apple TV at https://apple.co/3MRv3MA