Somebody must be doing something right when you manage to get James Bond, Captain America, General Zod, and Laurie Strode into the same film.
Mostly set in and around the grounds of the Thrombey family’s mansion estate, Knives Out sees professional crime novelist and patriarch of the family, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), as he celebrates his 80thbirthday in grand fashion. Joined by his immediate family, their significant others, his grandchildren and his medical helper turned close confidant, Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), Harlan is set for a get together unlike any other to celebrate a milestone not many people have the longevity to reach. But the following morning, tragedy strikes as Harlan is found dead in his study, his throat slit ear to ear, and everyone in the house swearing they have no idea what happened. Now, with Harlan gone and a house full of suspects, special private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) begins a long, twisting investigation to figure out who killed Harlan, what their motivation might be, and most of all, who anonymously hired him to solve a case that could shatter the bonds of a family on the edge.
Coming off the heels of one of the most divisive Star Wars films to ever be released, writer/director Rian Johnson bring us from a galaxy far, far away back down to Earth where family problems and grating personalities are the norm. Filled to the brim with twists and turns, backstabbing and backtracking, cover ups and lies, and a cast that executes his vision nearly perfectly to boot, Johnson delivers a fun and interesting film akin to Murder On The Orient Express or Clue, but for a new age, turning the whodunit genre on its head in the process.
Starting off strong and only stumbling a bit towards the third act of the film, Johnson is able to load his script up with clever dialogue, appealing yet appalling characters, layered clues and overlapping storylines, and a sense of tongue in cheeky-ness that oozes out of every scene. While the film itself might be a bit too long for its own good, it’s chock full of great moments in regards to character beats and plot points, and has a handful of genuinely surprising reveals and twists that immediately held my attention as I tried to figure out what was happening before it happened. Knives Out is a film that inherently appeals to audiences on almost all levels while simultaneously not sacrificing the story it’s trying to tell by watering anything down, giving us a smart rollercoaster of a ride seemingly with ease.
Other than the plot, the most immediately apparent element of Knives Out that stands out more than anything else is the fantastic cast Johnson was able to wrangle in order to bring his vision to life. Played with complete commitment from everyone involved, the cast includes *takes deep breath* Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, *takes another deep breath* Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Edi Patterson, Frank Oz, Katherine Langford, and finally, Jaeden Martell. With talent like this, it’s nearly impossible to fail, and none of them disappoint in the slightest. Whether it be the endearingly innocent Ana de Armas, the snobby, overbearing Jamie Lee Curtis, the deliciously odd yet intellectual Daniel Craig, or the lounging douche bag Chris Evans, it’s hard not to be swept up in their performances as the dance and flow of a whodunit flick that changes your perception of each of them as the story progresses and their characters begin to crack. It really says something about how many top notch actors were attracted to Johnson’s ability to craft a great story as well as give each character their own unique voice, because nowadays it’s hard to even get three real feeling, fully realized characters in a movie let alone ten plus, and for that, I’m truly impressed.
Knives Out is one of the most consistently intriguing and genuinely inventive whodunit films that has ever been released. Not only does Rian Johnson and his superb cast sell the story of a backstabbing, conniving, entitled family and their 1% problems perfectly, but the filmmakers are also able to successfully weave a twisty, smart narrative that rewards audiences if they simply pay enough attention. Within the first half hour Johnson is able to flip the genre on it’s head, giving us a new angle into a genre that hasn’t seen much action as of late, while simultaneously raising the stakes at every turn when things start to go sideways. Although there are a couple scenes towards the middle to last half of that film that effectively grind the story’s pacing to a halt, there’s more than enough to love when it comes to the script, cast, sense of direction and legitimate fun that is to be had while watching this film. I hope we get more movies like this in the future, and if not, I wouldn’t mind catching this one again in theaters.