Rian Johnson‘s (‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘) ensemble juggernaut ‘Knives Out‘ is a cutting edge whodunnit with lots of witty one-liners and twists, an underlying political sneer at modern America, and first-rate actors that will both shock and surprise you.
As soon as the classical music kicks in with the murder scene draped in fog, you know this is going to be a unique watch for 2019 audiences. What seems to have been a suicide, suddenly becomes a murder investigation on the death of renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), as more and more testimonies don’t line up, and private detective Blanc (Daniel Craig) and Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) suspect foul play. A classic murder mystery turns into a contemporary case of Cluedo that keeps the twists coming, even when it seems like the main secret has been revealed in the first act. When more skeletons seem hidden within Thrombey’s manor and his dysfunctional family, that’s when the fun really begins.
Johnson most recently directed the hated-by-a-huge-percentage-of-fanboys ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘ (which I personally adore!), but isn’t holding back on his writing skills. As a matter of fact, it seems like he’s even louder than ever and that truly pays off. His construction and build up of tension and suspense is astounding. Most of ‘Knives Out‘ takes place in the enormous mansion, which by the way has some of the craziest production design I’ve seen all year, yet Johnson takes the story far beyond the mansion on a few occasions to bump into the clues the main suspect has been trying to hide from everyone involved.
The cast is stupendously incredible. Rambling up such a mix of well known talents with exciting new faces, is a genius combo. Front and centre stands Cuban actress Ana de Armas (‘Blade Runner 2049‘), as Mr. Harlan Thrombey’s caretaker. Showcasing a range of emotions throughout the film, she’s certainly the strongest of the cast and an exciting talent that will most definitely have people talking. The caring and emotional Marta Cabrera, is a unique character I haven’t seen in a film of this calibre for a while. Her innocent persona evolves through all stages of grief, showing she has a heart while most of the late Mr. Thrombey’s family members are vultures with no shame. Johnson has proven many times before how to flesh out his characters, and has done it again.
Daniel Craig (‘Spectre‘) and Toni Collette (‘Hereditary‘) surprise as on screen comic relief. It’s refreshing to see Craig, who’s best known for James Bond, take a different route in his career to prove he’s not a one-trick pony. Collette, who at one point channels her Hereditary dinner rant, is a camp riot as daughter-in-law Joni. Everyone is great in their own part, just Jaeden Martell (‘It‘) felt more like a minor plot device and has no place in the whole of the story.
‘Knives Out‘ is a hoot of a film! Cuts right into the action and slices through two hours of giggles, shocks and spins. This might not be for everyone, Johnson has quite the outspoken opinion on racism, political standpoints and what’s right and wrong, and might challenge those who don’t agree with a more evolved point of view on humanity. The film is most of all engaging, and Johnson is just the right guy to make one the most entertaining films of the year.
Review – ‘Knives Out’
Reviewed at Palace Central, Sydney, Nov. 20, 2019. Australian Classification: M. Running time: 130 min.
PRODUCTION: A STUDIOCANAL release of a Lionsgate presentation of a Media Rights Capital (MRC), T-Street production. Producers: Ram Bergman, Rian Johnson. Co-producers: Leopold Hughes, Nikos Karamigios. Executive producer: Tom Karnowski.
CREW: Director/Screenplay: Rian Johnson. Camera (color, widescreen): Steve Yedlin. Editor: Bob Ducsay. Music: Nathan Johnson.
WITH: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell.