Film Review – Knives Out
Do you need a sweet reprieve from family ugliness this Thanksgiving? A getaway from canned cranberry sauce, drunken uncles and political squabbles? Good news, friends, Rian Johnson is here to pick you up with a heaping helping of fun in the form of Knives Out, his endlessly entertaining take on the whodunit, featuring a family even more despicable than your own! I for one give my thanks.
Fresh off the divisive (and I’ll say it, excellent) Star Wars entry The Last Jedi, Johnson dramatically changes gears here for a twisty, hilarious romp in the vein of Agatha Christie, only with more SJW swipes and vaping.
You know how this goes: an insanely wealthy patriarch dies under suspicious circumstances, a colorful detective arrives on scene to uncover the possible motives of surrounding friends and family, most with secrets in danger of being exposed, and red herrings are tossed about like it’s friggin’ Pike Place Market.
One particular reveal comes shockingly early in the film, forcing us to reappraise any immediate theories we may have concocted. This is a brazen approach to this specific type of story, and a trick that is employed again and again to mostly successful results. What could be read as a frustrating narrative tactic instead keeps us on our toes throughout. The tricky performances don’t hurt…
Leading the pack is Daniel Craig as Southern-friend detective Benoit Blanc (late contender for best character name of 2019), who along with his partner (LaKeith Stanfield) are hired to uncover the mystery surrounding the death of beloved author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), whose throat was slit on the eve of his 85th birthday.
Potential suspects include ::deep breath:: Walt and Linda (Michael Shannon and Jamie Lee Curtis), Harlan’s ungrateful children. Walt has been pushing for Harlan to allow for film and TV adaptations of his work, therefore serving himself up a bigger piece of the Thrombley pie. Linda’s motivations are initially less clear, but husband Richard (Don Johnson) can’t help but draw suspicion and ire with his loud-mouthed political takes and bristled demeanor.
Rounding out the ample cast are Toni Collette as Joni Thrombey, the daffy sister-in-law, Chris Evans, oozing smarm and charm as Ransom, the ne’er-do-well grandson with dollar signs in his eyes, and Ana de Armas as Marta, Harlan’s devoted nurse, the only decent one of the bunch. In fact, the mere act of lying causes her to instantaneously vomit.
Johnson directs Knives Out with a gleeful flare, basking in the heightened dialogue and lavish sets, all fun winks to the mysteries its DNA apes. Scenes are shot from multiple points of view, offering new perspective with each go-around. To reveal any of the film’s secrets would of course take away from the fun of it it all, but rest assured this thing does nor disappoint. Or let up.
Just when you think you’ve unspooled all of the movie’s secrets the rug gets pulled out from under again, and isn’t that all we can ask out of our whodunits? Anyway, it sure beats the hell out of candied yams.