130 Mins. Available on home video.(4 out of 5)
Reviewed by: Sam Hollis
Knives Out is a good-old-fashioned whodunit, complete with the bloody murder of a family patriarch, an endless list of motivated suspects, a smooth detective, and more twists than one cares to count. It is mystery in its purest and most entertaining form.
While police rule the dramatic death of well-known crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) a suicide, private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) receives an anonymous payment that urges him to think otherwise. As Blanc investigates, conflicts within the Thrombey family are brought to light, and everyone becomes a suspect.
After his experience making Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it’s clear writer and director Rian Johnson wanted to make a subversive follow up. The whodunit genre is inherently captivating, but risky – a switched-on audience will see right through any plot holes and call BS on any sudden deus ex machina.
Thankfully, Johnson did his homework. His screenplay and direction are tightly linked to deliver the right information at just the right time; a trail of breadcrumbs designed to ensure maximum impact to the audience. Editor Bob Ducsay is also crucial in this success. As we are tossed around time to achieve the aforementioned impact, Ducsay’s cuts keep the pace and maintain the plot’s intelligence.
If Johnson and Ducsay carry the film’s structure, the cast is certainly responsible for injecting an unabashed sense of fun. Craig chews scenery with glee. Ana de Armas, playing Harlan’s private nurse and confidant Marta Cabrera, brings necessary heart and warmth to the screen amongst a sea of cold, manipulative players. Standouts in the supporting cast include Jamie Lee Curtis as Harlan’s resilient, no-nonsense daughter Linda and Chris Evans as his spoilt grandson.
While the story and characters endow Knives Out with joy, the film doesn’t consistently seize opportunities to innovate visually beyond some well-timed blocking and the odd dolly zoom. However, Johnson’s direction is poised. Not a second of screen time is wasted, constantly building towards what is a satisfying conclusion to a truly grand mystery.