REVIEW: KNIVES OUT
Rian Johnson manages to create one of the more clever and enjoyable murder mysteries in recent years, thanks to an excellent powerhouse cast.
Director: Rian Johnson | Distributed by: Lionsgate | Rating: PG-13
From the twisted and controversial mind of Writer/Director Rian Johnson, most famous for his work on Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Brick, and Looper, comes Knives Out – an Agatha Christie-esque who-done-it for modern times, starring an all-star cast including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana De Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, LaKieth Stanfield and somehow more.
The film follows the murder investigation of a famous author and wealthy patriarch, Harlan Thrombey, played beautifully by Christopher Plummer. Naturally, because a lot of money is at stake, everyone who stands to benefit is a suspect. In other words, his whole family, and then some. Thus begins, Knives Out, one of the more memorable and truly enjoyable murder mysteries in recent years.
While the marketing has made it look like the detectives drive the story, as is often the case in Agatha Christie novels, in actuality, the film is more or less driven from the point of view of Harlan’s good-hearted nurse, Marta, played by Ana De Armas, who more than holds her own amongst the powerhouse cast. And, hot damn, is it a powerhouse cast – all of whom find their moments to shine, none more so than the delightfully ruthless Ransom Thrombey, played with glorious and devilish charisma by none other than Captain America himself, Chris Evans. I’d also be remiss to not mention Daniel Craig’s performance, as the southern gentleman/private detective, Benoit Blanc. His accent may be outrageous, but he plays the detective with such aplomb that you can’t help but love the man for really taking a bite out of the character.
But the real question when judging a murder mystery is who-done-it? As with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, writer/director Rian Johnson decides to sidestep and take a knife to expectations by revealing that fairly early in the film, leaving you not with a who-done-it, but more of a why-done-it, for lack of a better term. While getting to the why, Johnson enjoys weaving in an intriguing yet heavy-handed tale, not of murder, but of heated political topics like immigration and the 1%.
In the end, the twists aren’t entirely surprising, but are still well-executed. I respect Rian’s decision to try to alter the tried-and-true murder mystery formula, but sometimes the formula is that way because it just works. Even with the wind partially out of its sails, the film still always manages to be engaging and entertaining, thanks in no small part to its cast and some genuinely fun writing and cinematography. While a certain political contingent may be inclined to attack the film with, well, Knives Out, one hopes everyone can at least cut this film some slack and enjoy it for the light, throwback holiday romp that it is.
Knives Out is released through Lionsgate on Thanksgiving Day!
OVERALL SCORE: 9/10