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Kenneth Branagh’s New Agatha Christie – The Hollywood Reporter



Like Agatha Christie herself, Kenneth Branagh discovered a dependable formulation for mysteries. In his two earlier diversifications of Christie novels, he directed and performed the cerebral detective Hercule Poirot amid a star-filled solid, in an unique location with not less than one killer on the unfastened.  Homicide on the Orient Specific (2017), with Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp, had an enjoyably retro, over-the-top model. Demise on the Nile (2022) was a bit much less starry and diverting.

Now A Haunting in Venice units a particular sample of diminishing returns. The brand new movie is far pokier in its pacing, with duller characters. Regardless of some highlights, together with Branagh in high type as an much more somber than standard Poirot, the movie is watchable however additionally it is one thing deadly to a thriller: uninvolving.

A Haunting in Venice

The Backside Line

The least of the Branagh Poirots.

Launch date: Friday, September 15
Forged: Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Yeoh, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Kelly Reilly, Jude Hill, Kyle Allen, Riccardo Scamarcio
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Author: Michael Inexperienced

Rated PG-13,
1 hour 43 minutes

The story takes place in 1947 and may be very loosely primarily based on a lesser-known, late-career Christie novel, Hallowe’en Occasion (1969), altering the plot, altering present characters and including new ones. And it shifts Christie’s English country-house location to Venice, the place Poirot has retired and putters round his rooftop backyard. His outdated pal, the thriller author Ariadne Oliver, arrives, solidly performed by Tina Fey in ’40s-era sharp-tongued American mode, as if she’s channeling Rosalind Russell in His Woman Friday. Ariadne entices Poirot to return to a Halloween seance in a supposedly haunted palazzo, to reveal a clairvoyant she is definite is a charlatan. Michelle Yeoh, at all times a delight to see, performs the medium, and at one level is spun round wildly like a lady possessed. However decrease your expectations: She has a a lot smaller function than the trailer suggests.

Decrease your expectations for Venice, too. The change of location ought to have labored nice, enjoying proper into the formulation. The movie opens with promising, skewed angles on town, and there are a number of outside scenes on the finish. However most of it takes place within the gloomy palazzo, extra clichéd than spooky, with shadowy staircases inside and a canal on the market conveniently situated for drowning. The interiors are literally a set in Pinewood Studios, with a manufacturing design of drab colours, shot with a muddy look.

The palazzo, as soon as an orphanage, is owned by a well-known opera singer, Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly, removed from her function as Beth in Yellowstone). She needs the medium to contact her daughter, who was so heartbroken when her fiancé jilted her that she jumped into the canal. The screenplay, by Michael Inexperienced, who additionally wrote the earlier Branagh Poirots, creates a merely serviceable plot and thriller round this concept. The legend that the palazzo is haunted by the ghosts of kids locked in and left to die centuries earlier than is extra of a nod to ghost tales than a recurring theme. The query of whether or not Poirot would possibly abandon logic and be satisfied that ghosts exist crops up half-heartedly.

In typical Christie mode, the suspects collect collectively, together with the caddish ex-fiance (Kyle Allen) and Poirot’s Italian bodyguard (Riccardo Scamarcio). Jamie Dornan, who starred as the daddy in Branagh’s semi-autobiographical Belfast, performs a health care provider with PTSD, and Jude Hill, the kid who performed the younger Branagh character there, is his precocious son right here. Hill is a real expertise, a vivid presence on display screen. And Camille Cottin (Name My Agent) brings fierce conviction to the function of Rowena’s housekeeper, who was once a nun. Cottin stands out as a result of so many within the massive solid appear to be sleepwalking by means of all of it.  

That doesn’t apply to Branagh, who has at all times been an ideal match for the hammy character of Poirot. In every of his Christie movies, Branagh brings depth and backstory to the particular person behind the moustache, along with his darkish view of humanity. In Venice, greater than ever, he appears a touching, lonely determine.  

However depth of character will not be the purpose on this thriller. After all Poirot finally says, “No one shall leave until I find who killed her!” and later describes precisely who and what brought about a number of deaths. His revelations are usually not particularly shocking, although. As any thriller fan is aware of, the supposedly least doubtless suspect is commonly the killer, and the unsuspenseful Haunting in Venice doesn’t do a lot to undermine that guess.

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