Kenneth Branagh has just released A Haunting in Venice, his third big-screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s popular detective character, Hercule Poirot. Interestingly, this new story is based on Hallowe’en Party, the final book in Christie’s series. Does that mean Branagh has officially hung up the mantle and is done doing Hercule Poirot movies?
Not particularly. There are 30 more books to be mined, which means we’ll likely continue to see the character as long as the production costs remain low and the box office receipts are lucrative. So, dig in because the following list, ranking the trilogy of films from worst to best, will likely expand quite a bit in the coming years. As a fan of Poirot, I’m all for it.
3) Death on the Nile (2022)
In Death on the Nile, Hercule Poirot investigates a murder during a luxurious cruise on the Nile River, where a wealthy heiress is found dead. As Poirot delves into the complex web of relationships among the passengers, he uncovers hidden motives and dark secrets, ultimately revealing the identity of the murderer.
Yet there’s something off about Branagh’s second go-around as Poirot. Maybe it’s the synthetic, digital look or bland performances from the all-star cast, but the mystery never grabs you the way it did in Murder on the Orient Express. The sluggish pace doesn’t help.
That said, Branagh delights as the detective, delivering a solid performance that keeps the pic from stalling completely. Plus, Gal Gadot is a sight to behold. Her acting chops may leave something to be desired, but Branagh frames his star like John Huston shot Katharine Hepburn. The story is strong enough to hold your attention, but it might’ve benefited from a trim or two, which is why it’s at the bottom of our list of Kenneth Branagh Hercule Poirot movies.
2) Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
In Murder on the Orient Express, famed detective Hercule Poirot travels on the luxurious Orient Express train when a wealthy American passenger is brutally murdered. Stranded in a snowdrift, Poirot meticulously investigates the passengers and uncovers a web of deception and intrigue as he seeks to identify the culprit.
Handsomely produced, though a tad reliant on digital effects, Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s famous 1934 novel maintains an old-fashioned charm. It presents an enthralling mystery thanks to a fantastic cast, nuanced performances, and a few clever twists. In his portrayal of Poirot, Branagh shines without overshadowing the other stars, including Michelle Pfeiffer, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, and Olivia Coleman, who also deliver noteworthy performances.
While it may feel somewhat familiar, and the final revelation might carry a hint of slyness and frugality, Murder on the Orient Express remains engaging and efficient entertainment, clocking in at a modest two hours. Come for the cast, stay for the murder, grab a tub of popcorn, and let the good times roll.
1) A Haunting in Venice (2023)
I really enjoyed A Haunting in Venice, which walks the fine line between creepy mystery and Scooby-Doo-like farce while keeping a straight face. While the central mystery may not break new ground, it’s fair to say that you can often discern the killer based on the celebrity status of the cast members. Yet, I found myself captivated by the unsettling atmosphere, strong performances, and the ominous sense of impending doom meticulously crafted by Branagh’s direction. It may not be flawless, but it’s undeniably entertaining.
Hercule Poirot, who has retired and chosen to live in self-imposed exile in the world’s most glamorous city, reluctantly becomes entangled in a seance held at a decaying, haunted palazzo. His involvement takes a dark turn when one of the guests is murdered, thrusting him into a sinister world of shadows and well-kept secrets.
While ostensibly a ghost story wrapped around a conventional mystery, A Haunting in Venice maintains a brisk pace, ensuring that audiences are engaged, even with familiar material. Branagh effectively utilizes opulent settings, clever camera angles, and dimly lit environments and delivers a few memorable death scenes –- bonus points if you predicted the murder-by-statue bit. Although the final revelation may feel somewhat underwhelming again, the journey is well worth the ticket price, which is why it’s the best of the Kenneth Branagh Hercule Poirot movies.
Perhaps it was the supernatural aspect or the impressive production design. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed this latest installment of the Poirot saga and eagerly await the possibility of joining the detective on another adventure should Branagh choose to return. Also, Tina Fey deserves more roles like this.