This film is not the worst thing to happen to Venice since tourism. But it’s certainly not the best. Kenneth Branagh is convincing in his role as both director and lead detective Hercule Poirot, however the film stutters with a mix of underdeveloped, and avoidably unlikeable characters. Its failings in this regard may be explained by its ties to its source material, Agatha Christie’s 1969 novel ‘Hallowe’en Party’. This is not to criticise Christie’s efforts, but more to explain that authors often devote more time to exploring the background of their characters, something that is painfully missing in Branagh’s one hour and 47-minute adaption. This ultimately means that instead of the audience willing Poirot to solve the murder before any other characters fall victim, viewers will likely find themselves apathetic, having developed no attachments to any characters, and instead wishing there were less to keep track off.
Despite these limitations, the film manages to avoid collapsing into a cheap horror movie. Set in a supposedly haunted house, Poirot reluctantly attends a séance, only to have to solve a series of spooky murders. Poirot’s battle between his dogged rationality and the unexplainable events is the main plot point to watch, where he must decide whether to disregard his own logic in favour of what his eyes tell him.
Although this is the third film in Branagh’s Poirot series, it does not tire as much as expected, perhaps only because it can be watched by those ignorant of the existence of its predecessors. Dappled with seasoned actors such as Jamie Dornan and Michelle Yeoh, supported by rising star talent such as Emma Laird and Kyle Allen, the film stands alone from what came before. Tina Fey provides light comedic relief to break moments of tension, and the film is genuinely funny at times, with quick-witted dialogue weaved in amongst fast-paced discourse. Allen in particular impressed, managing to bring some flair to a role limited by a lack of screen time. Laird, who was voted ‘Brit to Watch’ in 2021 by Variety, will likely be a forgotten character which added little to the plot, leaving the film ultimately feeling like a waste of some good talent.
Tina Fey provides light comedic relief to break moments of tension, and the film is genuinely funny at times, with quick-witted dialogue weaved in amongst fast-paced discourse.
That is not to say that there were no strengths. On the contrary, the setting of Venice allowed for some beautiful pieces of cinematography, and picturesque landscapes. Experimental camera angles and an obviously talented costume department tied together a film that was immensely aesthetically pleasing, but sadly lacking much substance. The soundtrack was something to note further, managing to evoke a 1940s nostalgia, whilst simultaneously crafting a creepy and unnerving energy in the necessary moments.
Experimental camera angles and an obviously talented costume department tied together a film that was immensely aesthetically pleasing, but sadly lacking much substance.
Therefore, the film is enjoyable, but forgettable- intriguing, but unlikely to become a fan favourite. So, if you aren’t one for jump scares, eerie music, or the dark, then perhaps give this one a miss. If you have an afternoon to kill and like detective mysteries with stunning landscapes, then it’s worth a watch.