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Review: A Haunting In Venice
Death Was Only The Beginning.
This is a quick review of the newly released film A Haunting In Venice. Keep in mind this is but one of the many movies I watch every year, and that whatever initial grade I come up for this film could change for better or worse with time. To better keep up to date with both my thoughts on other movies and if my feelings on this film changed, follow me on Letterboxd.
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Via Letterboxd: Celebrated sleuth Hercule Poirot, now retired and living in self-imposed exile in Venice, reluctantly attends a Halloween séance at a decaying, haunted palazzo. When one of the guests is murdered, the detective is thrust into a sinister world of shadows and secrets.
While some, such as a nameless fellow critic who belongs with me in the Critics Association Of Central Florida, may find Kenneth Branagh off-putting. I greatly enjoy his presence as both an Actor and Director. Does it mean that I consider anything he’s in or has directed to be A-tier? No. But films he’s directed such as Belfast, Cinderella, Hamlet, etc have far outnumbered the Artemis Fowl type of screwups.
And included in that filmography has been his now trilogy of Hercule Poirot films where he directs himself as the infamous literary detective. His previous outings as Poirot in 2017’s Murder On The Orient Express and the often-delayed 2022’s Death On The Nile were okay but nothing special B- affairs to me which garnered mixed reception from critics and audiences - but did better at the box office than you’d anticipate at first glance.
So I came into A Haunting In Venice anticipating the same lukewarm reception. To cut to the chase, that was exactly where I fell on it. But I didn’t get the same kind of film that I got from the other two did either. While it did have Branagh’s stamp on his impersonation of “the world’s greatest detective” and it has the typical round of questions and ultimate murderer reveal, what I got instead was a much more slow burning film with a much more dark and brooding atmosphere. Because of this I think this will either be your favorite or least favorite of the trilogy depending on what tone you prefer.
Adding to my pros I’ll say the ensemble here may not be as impressive as the first two but they nonetheless hold their own including Tina Fey in a much more subdued type of role than I’m used to seeing her in, Michelle Yeoh who makes most of her time with the little she has in this, and a Belfast reunion with Jamie Dornan and Jude Hill once again showing their performances in that great movie were not outliers. The score from the great Hildur Guðnadóttir is also a major highlight and the cinematography in this one is the best yet from these films in my opinion.
That said as competently put together as it is it does have some lulls and the movie seemingly loses steam in the second half as the source material’s predictability hurt it down the stretch.
But overall I liked but didn’t love A Haunting In Venice. Its not among Branagh’s best, but none of these Hercule Poirot films are in my opinion. Its a serviceable, albeit forgettable, entry into a serviceable, albeit forgettable trilogy of films. B- for this one just like the other two. But that aside, I hope we see more top tier Branagh sooner than later and this ends up the last of these.