A HAUNTING IN VENICE is the story of a renowned detective solving an unusual case. The year is 1947. Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is living a retired life in Venice. Many people ask him to solve cases, involving their dead family members or close loved ones, but he refuses them all. This is when Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), an old friend and an author, approaches him on the day of Halloween. She asks him to meet Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), who claims to talk to the dead. Ariadne himself doesn’t believe in it but she said that after meeting Joyce, she is not able to understand whether she’s bluffing or does she actually have powers. Hercule reluctantly agrees. The meeting is held in a spooky mansion where Joyce is all set to conduct a séance. The idea is to communicate with Alicia (Rowan Robinson), a young girl who mysteriously died. Many believe that the house is haunted by the evil spirits of orphans who were left to die here during the Plague. Hercule is confident that there are no ghosts in the mansion or anywhere else in the world. However, the mysterious developments that take place make him challenge his beliefs. What happens next forms the rest of the film.
A HAUNTING IN VENICE is adapted from Agatha Christie’s novel ‘Hallowe’en Party’. However, a lot of changes have been made to the principal plot. Michael Green’s screenplay seems exciting on paper as this time, besides the numerous murders and suspects, there’s also a hint of a supernatural element. But the same doesn’t translate captivatingly on screen. The dialogues are just fine.
Kenneth Branagh’s direction is not up to the mark this time. To give credit where it’s due, the film begins in an entertaining manner. The way Hercule spends time during his retirement is too good. He has also established the eerie atmosphere convincingly. On the flipside, after the initial murder, the film drops. The film gets verbose and unexciting. A few developments are also predictable. The suspense is unexpected, but it comes too late in the day.
Kenneth Branagh, as expected, plays his part with utmost conviction. Michelle Yeoh leaves a mark in a supporting role. Tina Fey shines. Camille Cottin (Olga Seminoff) delivers a fine performance, especially in the second half. The same goes for Kyle Allen (Maxime Gerard). Jamie Dornan (Dr Leslie Ferrier) doesn’t get much scope. Jude Hill (Leopold) puts up a confident act. Vitale Portfoglio (Ricardo) is decent. Ali Khan (Nicholas) and Emma Laird (Desdemona) provide able support. Rowan Robinson is okay in a cameo.
Hildur Guðnadóttir’s music is in sync with the film’s thrill and mystery moods. Haris Zambarloukos’s cinematography is engaging. John Paul Kelly’s production design is rich and straight out of the bygone era. Sammy Sheldon’s costumes are researched but somehow don’t stand out. VFX is top-class. Rome of the late 40s is neatly depicted on screen. Lucy Donaldson’s editing could have been sharper.
On the whole, A HAUNTING IN VENICE is a disappointing fare due to an unexciting narrative. At the box office, it’ll appeal to very limited fans of the series.