Knives Out - Review
Knives Out is a good ol' fashioned "whodunnit" with very modern sensibilities. The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson crafted a smart, fun, and wildly entertaining murder mystery with an all-star cast.
Predictable murder mysteries are no fun. A professional like Johnson knows this. That is why Knives Out is so entertaining. The audience is let in on more than the characters investigating the murder know, so you are watching Daniel Craig and LaKeith Stanfield figure out something that the audience has seen already. It is expertly crafted, and makes it unique from the other things in that genre.
Of course, there are twists and turns that the audience doesn't know, so the whole film is a journey of discovering bits and pieces. The audience only knows what Johnson wants them to know, when he wants them to know it. Because of that, Knives Out is one of the most enjoyable rides you can have at the movies this year.
Craig's Benoit Blanc is very reminiscent of Hercule Poirot from Murder On The Orient Express. Like his role in Logan Lucky, it is a vast departure from James Bond, but Craig is great. There is absolutely opportunity for him to star in future films as Blanc solving other mysteries.
The film is anchored by Ana de Armas, who has the biggest story and the most to do. She is one of the smaller names in the cast, but hold her own with the biggest stars of the film, all of which she shares ample screen time with.
Chris Evans also flexed his acting chops with his role as Ransom Drysdale. The character has many un-Captain-America-like qualities, but its hard not to root for the guy still, because of how charming and endearing he is. Evans is part of the Thrombey family, made up of the rest of the all star cast.
Christopher Plummer is the rich grandfather, the patriarch of the family, and the unfortunate victim. Sometimes, a big name isn't needed to be the victim, because they are hardly in the story, they are just the catalyst for the story to start. But due to how Johnson framed the story, Plummer had a lot to do via flashbacks. The character was required to be sweet and endearing, but also stern and strict. He had to be likable with a stubborn side, and Plummer did it with precise expertise.
It is always a treat when Jamie Lee Curtis is on the big screen. She's been in this game for a while, and she hasn't lost a step. She brought an intimidating and complicated presence to the screen. When Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, and Toni Collette get to act opposite her, it makes them better.
Rian Johnson is so talented, that every character feels like they are fully realized, with the depth and the secrets of real people. Even the smaller roles from Riki Lindhome and Frank Oz feel like they've been playing those characters for years. At first glance, some characters can fit the typical archetypes of these kinds of stories. But once their characters are explored deeper, they all have something entertaining about them.
The story is so strong, that it could support a 2nd-rate cast with 2 dimensional characters. On the other hand, the cast and characters are so strong, that it could support a basic, predictable story, and still be fun. Luckily neither do much of the heavy lifting, because they both are so great. It is the perfect balance.
Knives Out is unlike anything that has come before it in the genre, yet has a lot of familiar tropes used in interesting ways. It is a modern take, with a lot of classic tropes. Everything in the arsenal is used with precision. All of the "whodunnit" tools are a welcome addition, and the editing, pace, camera placement, character work, plot all add something to the experience. It is funny, tense, sad, and smart. Knives Out is a well oiled machine that fires on all cylinders. There isn't a lot of down time. Each minute brings something worth watching. Whether it's an actors performance, a new wrinkle in the narrative or a cool camera shot, every frame has something to love.
If you are looking for a movie to watch over the holidays, Knives Out is definitely the way to go.
Knives Out hits theaters November 27.