Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans
Review Author: Tony
After writing and directing one of the most unintentionally controversial films in years, a film that had the audacity to be different and cause a civil war among the Star Wars fandom, Rian Johnson returns to his roots with a modern spin on the Whodunnit. Knives Out is a meta, tongue-in-cheek tribute to the murder mystery genre made famous by Agatha Christie’s novels.
Harlan Thrombey is a successful mystery author with a large family and an abundance of wealth and assets. Unfortunately, the housekeeper has found him dead in what appears at first to be an apparent suicide. Much like the subject matter of his novels, Harlan’s death is mysterious with the presence of two police officers and a larger than life private detective, Benoit Blanc. Suspicions are raised when Blanc cannot identify who hired him and the question of where Harlan’s inheritance is to go becomes contentious among his silver spooned family who cannot keep their stories straight.
While there are still twists and turns afoot, Johnson cleverly reveals much of the mystery early on. This allows the script a lot of breathing room and for more character development rather than the usual keep the audience guessing trope most associated with the genre. The writing is incredibly well thought out with plenty of Easter eggs and motifs in the background to demand further viewings. Knives Out never bogs itself down with too intricate of a plot or unexpected twists, instead the mystery feels more natural and believable, and yet still plays out as theatrical as one might expect from an homage to Christie’s work.
Trying to pour praise on anyone performance is a difficult task considering the numerous wonderful characters within the movie. It’s wonderful to see Jamie Lee Curtis return to such meaty acting roles, especially in a career best as the razor sharp eldest sister. Don Johnson continues to carve out a wonderful acting resurgence as the greedy and insensitive son-in-law. Michael Shannon effortlessly plays an embittered son clutching at what he believes is his entitlement, while Toni Collette is hilarious as the flaky lifestyle guru who has been ripping Harlan off. Chris Evans shows his post Captain America acting chops playing the narcissistic trust-fund baby grandson. The two best performances fall upon the shoulders of Daniel Craig’s eccentic southern detective and Ana de Armas’ kind hearted nurse who bounce off one another brilliantly.
Knives Out is a sleek and stylish homage to genre cinema and a great reminder of why Johnson is one of the best writers/directors working today. There’s so many essential elements of the classic murder mystery from the conspicuous victim, an ensemble of two-faced elitist suspects, a gothic setting, and an eccentric detective. In lesser hands, Knives Out would become more parody than homage, but the script is lean and brilliantly thought out while also delivering plenty of laughs and great performances from a stellar cast.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 Donut Holes