A modern twist on the classic Whodunit
KNIVES OUT 5 OUT OF 5; Written and Directed by Rian Johnson; Starring Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, and Christopher Plummer; Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material; 130 minutes; in wide release November 28.
The only sure thing about a Rian Johnson movie is that the audience never knows what to expect. From subverting our expectations about time travelling hitmen, to turning a space opera in a galaxy far, far away completely on its ear, Johnson has never shied away from developing stories that take us in unique directions. With Knives Out, he uses this same formula on the whodunit genre, and the result is a charmingly fun film that will please fans of pretty much all ages.
All I knew about Knives Out was that it was a Rian Johnson film, so I was going to go see it. He has directed some of my favorite movies (including my favorite Star Wars), so I couldn’t wait to see it the moment I heard about it. The interesting thing was that, as much as I was looking forward to watching it, I never got to see a trailer and walked in nearly completely blind. Hell, I only knew it was a whodunit because I pulled it up on IMDb right before walking in to check the run time. And I’m extremely glad I did. While the trailers do a good job revealing nothing in the plot that you don’t learn 15 minutes in, having no expectations as to the story enriched the experience and made it a lot more enjoyable. Oh, and it’s vitally important to pay attention to that first 15 minutes I mentioned as it plays heavily into the events of the first half of the movie.
The star-studded cast of family members and friends vying for a piece of deceased grandfather Harlan Thrombey’s, fortune makes them all unique, unreliable narrators as they are interviewed by the police regarding his and their last night together. And speaking of the cast, it’s obvious they are all having a blast making this film, especially Jamie Lee Curtis and Chris Evans, the latter of which gets to step outside his normal role as boy scout, even dropping the two F-bombs a PG-13 movie is allowed. And of course, we would be remiss to forget Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, the southern gentleman private eye who has been hired to find out what, if anything else, really happened. Part Columbo and part Poirot with a deep, southern drawl, Craig works perfectly as the sleuth that is an amalgam of all the detective tropes we’ve come to know and love without ever taking the role into farce.
So, it’s all fun and games until about halfway through when there is a bit of a shift in the story, which begins to become a sly commentary on today’s political scene. This isn’t to say it’s heavy handed, as Johnson does a masterful job of touching on the 1%, classism, and even covert racism as his murder mystery plays out. It’s almost one of those things that will go over most people’s heads, so maybe I and a few of my peers are just “woke,” but the parallels and points being made were extremely obvious yet never overwhelming. Just as he is saying important things in The Last Jedi, so too is he in Knives Out.
Knives Out is simply one of the best movies of the year and one that any fan of sleuth or whodunit films is absolutely going to love. It’s tame enough to take most of the family, and there is a great undertone of political points being made that a lot of people will truly enjoy, and some might not even notice. It’s like a Christmas present come early and will nicely tide us over until The Rise of Skywalker in a few weeks.