With a provocative title like Knives Out, the film had better be a sharp murder mystery. Fortunately, writer/director Rian Johnson and his stellar ensemble cast delivered! The film embraces the tropes of the whodunnit genre – the wealthy dysfunctional family, the historic mansion, and an eccentric detective investigating the case… but it cleverly turned it on its head. It’s not as eerie, chilling or overly dark, in fact, Johnson kept the mood rather light and even seemingly frivolous. But don’t let that fool you, it’s suspenseful when it needs to be and oh, it’s just so delightfully entertaining!
The film starts out with the death of the family patriarch, crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), following his own birthday celebration. Soon the family gathers to mourn him, while in reality all they care about is how big of the inheritance they’d get. Given the suspicious nature of Harlan’s death, the detectives promptly arrive to question the members, including the debonair detective Benoit Blanc, whose involvement in the case is a mystery in itself.
Daniel Craig seems to have a blast playing Detective Blanc, with a rather quirky Southern Accent. The accent perhaps intentional to contrast him from the WASP-y, Massachusetts-bred Harlan family, much like Agatha Christie’s Poirot’s mustache sets her protagonist apart from the people he’s investigating. Craig definitely stands out even amongst this stellar cast, but the real star of the film is Ana de Armas who plays Marta Cabrera, Harlan’s loyal nurse who can’t lie without vomiting. That bit lends to some hilarious scenes in the film. This is only the second time I saw her since Blade Runner 2049, but she’s proven herself a versatile actress. Here she looks plain as can be, dressed in the dowdiest clothes, but portrays a seemingly-helpless-but-smarter-than-you-think character so well that you’re never quite know just who she really is.
I won’t go into more plot details, as this is the kind of film that’s best to go into it blindly. Any fan of murder mystery would get a kick out Johnson’s clever plot that keeps you guessing. Every single member of the family could have been the culprit, and that’s what made this kind of movies fun. I kept thinking things would go one way and it went another direction, keeping things suspenseful yet light and mirthful. Most of the action takes place inside or around the mansion, but there’s enough going for it to keep you engaged. It goes to show that a good script the best special effect of all, no amount of special effect or stunning visuals can make up for a good story.
I also love the fact that the writer/director makes good use of his eclectic ensemble cast, even Plummer in the flashback scenes. Each actor have their moment to shine, though of course some are memorable than others. Chris Evans clearly relish on playing a spoiled brat, practically the black sheep of the family… quite a departure from his goody-two-shoes Captain America role. The cozy-but-oh-so-sexy aesthetic no doubt spikes up sales of Fisherman sweaters everywhere. I always adore the chameleonic Toni Collette and she’s fun to watch as a lifestyle guru, perhaps channeling Gwyneth Paltrow a bit with her Goop empire. It’s also amusing to see Jamie Lee Curtis and Don Johnson as a couple. I think Jamie Lee should get more leading roles even now in her 60s, this sassy woman’s still got it!
Rian Johnson got so much flak for The Last Jedi which I actually enjoyed. I’m glad he’s back directing an original story as he’s clearly a gifted storyteller. In addition to the shrewd plot, he manages to inject a not-so-subtle jab about today’s political climate in regards to immigrants. I think the Best Original Screenplay Oscar nod is well-deserved, oh and the cast should’ve been nominated for Best Ensemble at SAG Awards too! The last shot of the film is absolutely brilliant… the expressions of the cast and an ingenious use of a particular prop is one of the best cinematic final scenes ever. I can’t help but smile every time I think about it!
I’m glad I was able to catch it before it left local cineplex as I missed the press screening back in November. Apparently a sequel is in the works for this, centered on Benoit Blanc with Craig reprising his role (so Craig is trading James Bond for Blanc, Benoit Blanc. Ha!) Normally I’d roll my eyes whenever sequels are announced, but I’m open to this idea, let’s hope the follow-up sequel’s script is as clever as this one.
Have you seen KNIVES OUT? Well, what did you think?