Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Tina Fey, Jamie Dornan, Michelle Yeoh, Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Jude Hill, Ali Khan, Emma Laird, Kelly Reilly, Riccardo Scamarcio
Where: In theatres.
Rating: 2 1/2
With a splashy ensemble cast, an exotic locale stained by a case of murder, sumptuous period costumes and sets, this film is director Kenneth Branagh’s third adaptation of Christie’s works, his earlier ones being the 2017 released Murder on the Orient Express and the 2019 released Death on the River Nile.
Unlike Branagh’s earlier two films, this one is a whodunit beast of its own. The film delves into the realm of supernatural horror and leans heavily on scary tropes with compelling sounds and jump scares.
Based on Agatha Christie’s 1969 lesser-known novel Hallowe’en Party, the film is set in 1947, and about ten years after the events- that occurred on the river Nile, and thus serves as its sequel.
The film begins with private detective Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), who is sceptic toward the supernatural is dragged out of retirement by his old friend, the mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey).
She wants Poirot to attend a séance where a famous opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), wants to contact her dead daughter, Alicia, with the help of a mysterious psychic Mrs. Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh). The séance is held on Halloween night, and Ariadane’s main intentions are to debunk Mrs. Reynolds' mystic powers.
But on a fateful night, things do not go as planned, with a room full of suspects, which include a grieving mother, the deceased girl’s jilted fiancé Maxime Gerard (Kyle Allen), Dr Leslie Ferrier (Jamie Dornan)- the doctor who pronounced her dead, the doting housekeeper Olga Seminoff (Camille Cottin) who claims to miss her, and even Leopold Ferrier (Jude Hill) a precocious child who insists he too can speak to the dead, the buried secrets are revived, and the lines between natural and supernatural surface. Poirot is once again compelled to ponder the metaphysical after a fresh corpse appears within their midst.
On the performance front, every actor is competent and pitch-perfect.
The events of the narrative take place in Drake’s beautifully crumbling palazzo alongside a Venetian Canal. This setting has a history. It adds gravitas to the tale. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos’s striking and atmospheric visuals, with Dutch angle frames and close-ups, appear attractive and add drama to the screen. But as you gape at the screen, your mind goes blank, for packed with staccato lines that make up the scene in a dramatic and theatrical manner, the narrative is passive and unengaging. It is a bit dull as a mystery film and works perfunctorily as a horror substitute.
Overall, with the film straddling genres, you step out of the theatres disappointed.