Review: ‘A Haunting in Venice’ – A Captivating Delight for Poirot Enthusiasts

London, September 14, 2023: Kenneth Branagh’s directorial masterpiece, “A Haunting in Venice,” marks the triumphant return of the iconic Hercule Poirot, brilliantly portrayed by Branagh himself, in the role of the celebrated detective created by the legendary Agatha Christie. Drawing inspiration from Christie’s novel “The Halloween Party,” the film commences with Poirot’s self-imposed retirement, a decision challenged by the relentless Ariadne Oliver, portrayed with finesse by Tina Fey. Oliver’s persuasive abilities succeed in coaxing Poirot out of retirement, not merely to “solve” a case but to embrace something beyond his logical reasoning and the unyielding realm of cold, hard facts.

Michelle Yeoh, in an indomitable performance, embodies Joyce Reynolds, a self-proclaimed “psychic” seeking to establish communication with her deceased daughter within a palatial setting where Poirot, Oliver, and a cast of murder suspects find themselves ensnared. What unfolds over the next riveting 100 minutes is a masterful concoction of mystery, supernatural intrigue, and a classic whodunit. The events that transpire within the eerie and enigmatic palazzo compel Poirot to question the very foundations of his stoic disposition.

Branagh, who also directs the feature, expertly employs primal fears to craft a spellbinding narrative: a sense of claustrophobia, startling sounds, unforeseen twists, and eerie melodies echoing from realms beyond the mortal plane keep the audience captivated while leaving them distrusting of every character. The cinematography by Haris Zambarloukous imbues “A Haunting in Venice” with the essential layers of mystery and intrigue.

Scenes unfold within narrow passageways and towering ceilings, and even without dialogue, intricate tapestries weave their tales. It is Poirot’s piercing sapphire gaze that meticulously surveys his surroundings, capturing the audience’s attention. The limited use of music allows the thunderous roar of rain and the gurgling of Venice’s canals to narrate their own stories, intensifying the enthralling experience. One feels submerged within the palazzo’s haunting supernatural narrative and the tumultuous sea of psychologically distressed characters in the present.

The central question looms large: Who among the eclectic ensemble of characters is the perpetrator? Is it the eccentric housekeeper who believes malevolent spirits inhabit the palazzo? The war-wounded physician with a volatile temper? The grieving mother, consumed by sorrow? The cunning assistants of the fraudulent psychic? Or could the culprit be closer to home, possibly even among Poirot’s inner circle? The boundaries blur, and at one point, every individual becomes a plausible suspect as Poirot’s own mind plays tricks on him.

“A Haunting in Venice” delivers an edge-of-your-seat experience that successfully taps into the primal fears of the human psyche, resulting in a classic thriller that leaves its audience in suspense until the very end. Branagh’s direction, the stellar cast, and the film’s meticulous attention to detail make it a must-watch for both Poirot enthusiasts and lovers of the mystery genre. As the credits roll, one cannot help but be immersed in the chilling world of “A Haunting in Venice,” a cinematic triumph that evokes both visceral and intellectual thrills.

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