The Reel Review
Detective Hercule Poirot, now retired and living in 1947 Venice, agrees to a mystery writer/friend’s request to attend a Halloween night séance at a nearby palazzo. When one of the attendees is killed, Poirot must find the culprit, while wondering: is there a ghost afoot? Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in this crime mystery loosely based on Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel Hallowe’en Party.
Visually, A Haunting in Venice is terrific, with spooky, fog enshrouded canals, mysterious, masked gondoliers and a decaying, dimly-lit palazzo just waiting for a crime to occur. An equally stylish score from Oscar-winner Hildur Guðnadôttir (Joker) further amps up the creep factor.
Acting-wise, the cast is also top notch, with Tina Fey as the mystery novelist, Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh (Everything Everywhere All at Once) as the psychic medium, Kelly Reilly (Yellowstone) as the palazzo owner whose late daughter is the subject of the séance, and Belfast alums Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill as a PTSD-plagued doctor and his precocious young son.
Storywise, however, is where the film suffers from the classic Agatha Christie film adaptation conundrum – a dreadfully boring, bloated and overly-talky midsection followed by a rushed third act in which Poirot suddenly (and almost magically) solves the crime, capped off with a convoluted recap of how it was done. Writer Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049, Logan) gives Agatha Christie fans the clues but ultimately A Haunting in Venice is a great looking but frustratingly anemic, albeit serviceable, whodunit.
• Oscar winner Kenneth Branagh also directed Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill in 2021’s Belfast, based on Branagh’s childhood..
• Branagh intentionally didn’t tell his cast about the surprises in the séance scene, so as to capture the looks of confusion and surprise on their faces. Kelly Reilly said “it scared the bejesus out of me.”
• A Haunting in Venice is Tina Fey’s second dramatic role after the 2016 war correspondent drama, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.