“Knives Out was a goddamn delight and one of the most fun movies of the year.”
An entire wealthy family turns on each other when the head patriarch turns up dead on his 80th birthday in this smart-as-hell murder mystery yarn Knives Out from the brilliant filmmaker Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi). Darkly funny throughout with a treasure trove of twists and turns and one fantastic ensemble dream cast, Johnson tells this modern-day who-dunnit puzzle effortlessly that will leave you guessing with surprises up until the very end. It was a goddamn delight and one of the most fun movies of the year.
Many films like this before have used the same formula for better or worse. Characters are introduced, someone turns up dead in the first act, which leaves the rest of the film up for guessing who the killer is as the story and characters deliver crumbs of information on to who the culprit is. That is until the final moment where the board game Clue is played out where it was that nonchalant character with the candlestick in the bathroom type of scenario. That is definitely not the case with Knives Out as Johnson weaves his story in an original and totally unique way as we’ve never seen before.
The head of the Thrombey family is Harlan (Christopher Plummer), an immensely successful mystery novelist, whose work has been celebrated in written and film form for decades, much like Stephen King. His family (Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, and Jaeden Martell) are all celebrating his big 80th birthday at his estate. They even invite his personal nurse Marta (Ana de Armas) for the big occasion. After the party, Harlan turns up dead, where a week later the entire family is being questioned by a private dick by the name of Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig with a hilarious honky-tonk accent), along with a couple of police officers, one of which has encyclopedic knowledge of Harlan’s catalog of stories.
From here, Johnson uses a few narrative tricks to tell the story, but only divulging small clues one bit at a time, none of which are slow-paced or boring. In fact, the entire 130-minute run-time flys by at a quick pace with some hysterical dialogue and a few bombshells that keeps you on your toes. It’s so refreshing to see a new take in this stale genre, that has completely re-ignited its entire nature of intrigue and mystery. Not only that, but Johnson keeps it mostly light-hearted while throwing in some current political topics that are so funny to watch these wealthy and unappreciative characters try to digest.
The performances by everyone always deliver the goods and I don’t remember a time where it looked like actors had so much fun on a movie set. Everyone seems to fall into their oddball and nuanced characters perfectly with their perfect ticks and particular detailed personality traits. Each and every hint that Johnson throws out there, comes back to haunt these characters in some form or fashion. Nothing is left out and every action and piece of dialogue is integral to the story at hand. My only hope is that we get a series of films that follow this particular private detective, solving other mysteries.
Knives Out is murder-mystery theatre at its best, told in an exceptional way that is always exciting and downright amusing in the highest order. With this impressive cast list, immaculate filmmaking and attention to detail, and one spotless story that you can tell over and over again, Knives Out is a leading example of what it means to have a blast at the movies.
Written by: Bryan Kluger