Hercule Poirot is a Belgian detective that Agatha Christie created and was one of her most beloved, most steadfast, and durable characters. He actually cropped up in thirty-three of Christie’s novels, two plays and fifty-one short stories, all in circulation for us to see and read between 1920 and 1975.
How that was accomplished is astonishing. The character of Poirot was played by some of the best actors around. Albert Finney, Tony Randall, Alfred Molina, Orson Welles, John Malkovich, and now, of course, Kenneth Branagh.
Branagh took on three of the Hercule Poirot novels. They are 2017’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” which earned a measly 61% on the Rotten Tomatometer. That was the critic’s rating. The audience liked it less, which is rare from what I’ve seen. The second was 2022’s “Death on the Nile,” which was rated 61%, as well. The audience liked this one quite a bit more. And now, with ninety critics weighing in so far, Venice has an 80%.
Have we found the victor of the games? “A Haunting in Venice” was reorientated from her novel “Hallo’ween Party, ” published in November of 1969. It has a great name, and excellent timing of release, and the account fits very well with what’s happening in the story. This could be the best of the three. Branagh’s Poirot is more involved in this plotline than usual and the choice to give himself a more prominent role and a good one. His participation in a story that occurs over one night is vintage and sets the tone for the tale itself, which was more frightening than I thought it would be.
His friend, mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver, played by Tina Fey, runs to him, asking that he join her at a presentation that may help her with her next novel. Her character seems to be Agatha Christie herself, but who am I to say… except that I believe you’ll feel the same way.
The story has changed some concerns about the disappearances of children at a home owned by the distraught mother, opera singer Rowena Drake. She’s played by the actress Kelly Reilly, popularly known as Beth Dutton from “Yellowstone.” I’m sure she was thrilled to get away from being seen only as Beth Dutton for so long.
Rowena’s daughter, Alicia, who was an adult and marrying beneath her station to Maxime Gerard (Kyle Allen). Alicia was murdered the previous Halloween.
The, well, spectacle Ariadne wants him to witness with her is a séance. A clairvoyant is going to attempt to speak to children who were left to die at the palazzo where Rowena Drake’s daughter perished. The place is creepy, but when the smug medium, which Poirot doesn’t believe in, enters the picture, the movie gets ghostly, as well. But that’s a good thing for you. The woman who is attempting to get a message from the beyond is Mrs. Reynolds, played by the fabulous Michelle Yeoh. Oliver wants more than ever to know if she’s the real thing or a hoax. Who better to bring along than the world’s best detective.
Several locations are shown but not necessarily applied to the narrative. The cinematography was gorgeous in every way it was used. The score lends a hand to the tale, as does Leopold, played by Jude Hill (Belfast), who was a pleasant addition. He’s a young boy attempting to hold together his father, Dr. Leslie Ferrier (“Fifty Shades of Grey” Jamie Dornan). Ferrier was in the war and suffers from PTSD. Though not meant to be, the boy is an amusing addition to the cast, and the actor has a bright future ahead if he plays his cards right.
Several other characters could be up to something… or is what is the living experiencing in the home truly due to the dead trying to send messages?
When Poirot, with his brilliance in deduction, isn’t sure himself so, how are you, the audience, supposed to figure it out? This is a fun who-done-it, but I can see it’s time to put Poirot to bed and end this storyline. It was fun, but when this is as good as it gets, it’s time the curtain falls.
Out today, I do recommend you see it. It’s an exciting caper, made noteworthy by its director, but you, too, will notice the uniqueness has worn thin.
A Haunting In Venice
Rating: PG-13 (Thematic Elements|Some Strong Violence|Disturbing Images)
Runtime: 1h 43m
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Drama, Crime
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green
Release Date (Theaters): Sep 15, 2023 *Wide
Distributor: 20th Century Studios
Production Co: The Mark Gordon Company, Scott Free Productions, TSG Entertainment, Kinberg Genre, 20th Century Studios
Producer: Ridley Scott, Judy Hofflund, Mark Gordon, Simon Kinberg