Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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A Haunting in Venice
Agatha Christie’s auspicious mystery novels has been trail blazers in the mystery world, probably only supplanted by Dorothy Sayers (and of course Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) for making some of the most memorable mystery books of all time. I grew up reading like an obsessed fanatic, absorbing anything from Louis Lamour westerns to Charles Dickens, to Tolkien, and then got bit by the mystery bug in my teens. Agatha Christie’s books were just incredibly dense and chewy, with a brilliant setup of how much information was shared to the reader before the big reveal, that I sometimes forget how hard that is to translate to the screen. A book makes it so easy, as there is 100s of pages of information to digest and twists and turns to navigate, while in a movie it’s a mere 2 hours or left to get the audience to where you need to be. Maybe that’s why Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot (one of her most famous characters) adaptations have suffered in really gaining traction with audiences. Don’t get me wrong, they’re enjoyable little jaunts with Branagh absolutely giving his heart and soul to the role as the intrepid detective, but for some reason they just seem to always fall short.
Well, that being said, the 3rd venture from Director/Star Branagh is actually pretty decent. Probably almost on par with Murder on the Orient Express and definitely above the mediocre Death on the Nile. The film starts out with a retired Hercule Poirot (Branagh), living his best life in his Venice flat, having pastries for breakfast and being watched over by his bodyguard in the interim. He gets sort of sucked into a halfway “investigation” when long time friend and author (who has written more than a few novels about him) Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) has a quandary. A local woman named Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly, of Yellowstone fame) is being preyed upon by a fake medium (Michelle Yeoh), but for the life of her, Ariadne can’t seem to figure out HOW she’s pulling off her “tricks”. So she recruits Hercule for one final side job in hopes of helping her unveil the medium for the fraudster for who she is.
As is the case with most of these mysteries, once Poirot is on site weird things start happening. He unveils the trickery of the medium soon enough, but immediately after the unveiling someone murders the medium! And to make matters worse, Poirot starts seeing things and hearing things that no one else can see, leaving him wondering whether he’s going mad, or if there really is a spirit realm out there after all.
Branagh gives it his heart and soul as always, playing Hercule Poirot as if he were in the middle of a Broadway production. Tina Fey was the one that actually surprised me here. I never thought of her being at home in an old Agatha Christie story, but she does a great job as the conniving and manipulative Ariadne. It may not be a perfect film, but the solid acting and chemistry between everyone involved was enough to elevate it into “rather good” territory.
Rated PG-13 for some strong violence, disturbing images and thematic elements
The results are simply spectacular. Even though streaming does have some bitrate limitations so as to cut down on file size the end result on the 4K stream is jaw dropping. The opening shots with Poirot on top of his roof, or on the park bench with Ariadne Oliver, are razor sharp and full of colorful life. However, the film moves into the mansion and soon fades to a more monochromatic color grading, interspersed with splashes of color (such as a bloody knife, the golden amber lighting in the halls, or the green of Joyce Reynolds blouse). Shadow detail is superb, with only some minor banding (very typical of bitrate compressed streams) to mar the image up much. The Dolby Vision adds a lovely inky depth to the darker underground bits (such as in the cellar), and even the underwater shots look great (under water is always the most taxing on video quality). Superb from beginning to end.
• Deleted Scenes
A Haunting in Venice is a nice step up from the mildly disappointing A Death on the Nile. It’s less showy and more introspective, with a story that dances a fine line between the hard and cold logic of Poirot, and the delicate hints of the supernatural at play. Being that it’s taken from one of Agatha Christie’s lesser known novels, it is not nearly so well known to audiences, and actually has a few surprises in store for us. The stream is quite pleasing in both it’s technical specs, and sadly this is the only way to get a 4K copy of the movie (outside of probably Kaleidescope) as the home video release is Blu-ray only. Honestly, this was a fun romp that has me giving it a solid thumbs up. Definitely a fun watch.
Starring: Kenneth Branah, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Kelly Reilly
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Michael Green (Screenplay), Agatha Christie (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 103 Minutes
Digital Release Date: October 31st, 2023
Recommendation: Fun Watch