A new murder mystery reaches theaters this weekend inspired by one of the genre's greatest writers, Agatha Christie. "A Haunting in Venice" is the third time Kenneth Branagh has played Christie's most famous creation, the Belgian detective named Hercule Poirot. This is also the third time the Oscar winner has directed himself in the role.
Branagh won an Oscar for writing "Belfast," and he brings two from that cast back for this one. Jamie Dornan and young Jude Hill play father and son again. Together, they join and all-star ensemble that includes Kelly Reilly, who is known to millions of TV viewers, Tina Fey and Michelle Yeoh, who just this year became the first Asian actress to win an Oscar for a lead role (in "Everything Everywhere All at Once").
Branagh has assembled his cast for a story filled with twists and turns.
"'A Haunting in Venice' has the sort of knot in the stomach, edge of the seat quality," he said as part of interviews with the cast taped long before the current actors strike.
Hercule Poirot, played by the director himself, is on the case again in a film inspired by one of Agatha Christie's lesser-known stories. She wrote a character based on herself and played here by Tina Fey. "Luckily for me," Fey jokes, "playing a desperate female writer is in a wheelhouse I am already inhabiting!" Inhabiting with humor, of course, but the star shows new depth as the person who sparks the plot by luring Poirot out of retirement.
"Provocative, entertaining, naughty, playful, and Tina brings all that to the role," says Branagh admiringly.
Both Fey and Branagh's characters suspect that a medium, played by Michelle Yeoh, is a fraud. But can they prove it? "I will not believe such things," says Poirot, but strange stuff keeps happening during a seance. Branagh notes that, "Michelle brings to Joyce Reynolds that quality that has the audience lean forward from the moment she appears."
Yeoh notes her character is "a very sensitive soul," adding, "I love a good murder mystery, but this has got this horror that something is lurking behind every shadow."
Discovering who-dun-it, that is finding out who committee murder here, is just part of the fun. There's a supernatural element to "A Haunting in Venice" that takes it to another level.
The film is distributed by Walt Disney Studios.
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