A Haunting in Venice (Kenneth Branagh, 2023, USA/UK/Italy)

A Haunting in Venice is the third installment in Kenneth Branagh's reimagining of Agatha Christie's Poirot series. After the uneven first two entries of the franchise, Branagh seems to have found his footing with the third. While all three films have taken liberty with their source material, A Haunting in Venice is certainly the most loosely based, changing dramatically the novel upon which it is based - 1969's Hallowe'en Party. Michael Green's script moves the English setting to a gothic Venetian setting, and this is where the film shines the most. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos captures the city - both real and imagined (Pinewood Studios) - in great and characteristic detail.

While the story in the original novel was a standard whodunit, Green's script introduces more supernatural elements, making the film a fitting mood piece for the Halloween season. Indeed, the film exceeds tonally where the last couple of films struggled. Branagh's Poirot is more focused here - there is less scene-chewing and more investigating. Likewise, the ensemble cast largely functions in the service of the story, and there are no cast members who truly stand out from the rest. This might be viewed as one of the film's faults.

At around 100 minutes, A Haunting in Venice doesn't overstay its welcome. And while it may be obvious who the killer is, the procedural is enjoyable. The direction here is much stronger than in previous films, and it seems that Branagh is more assured with the material. He introduces many visual flourishes. While A Haunting in Venice is not a perfect film and certainly doesn't offer that many surprises for those familiar with the source material, it is a solid whodunit to entertain mystery audiences during the Halloween season. Hopefully, these Branagh films continue on their upward trajectory and we will see more.



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