Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Lakeith Stanfield, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer
Cinematographer: Steve Yedlin
Murder Mystery. Black Comedy. Thriller. Drama. Tragedy. These are all genres Rian Johnson’s latest feature dabbles in, but it does so with grandeur, leading to an epic “whodunnit” with nonstop entertainment.
Knives Out is an adventure in storytelling and some of the most fun you’ll have all year. The story follows the wealthy Thrombey family and their quest to find who had a hand in crime novelist Harlan Thrombey’s unforeseen death. After being discovered in his mansion over a pool of blood, detective Benoit Blanc is called to investigate the case, unraveling a plethora of family secrets in the process.
Like with all murder mysteries, figuring out “who did it” is one of the best parts. But in this case, the interactions among the Thrombey family members hold the true excitement. Harlan leaves behind his son Walt (Michael Shannon), who is in charge of the family publishing company, and his daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) who consistently makes it known that she built her business on her own (with a loan from her father, of course). Then, there’s his daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette), who stuck around the family (and its money) even long after her husband died. Together, with their spouses and children, the clashing personalities bring a vibrancy to the script that is daring, devious and fresh. And this cast couldn’t pull it off more perfectly. At times, the script gets ahead of itself and turns a bit goofy to match the gaudy personalities of the privileged family members; but it just works. To balance this, however, there’s Marta (Ana de Armas)- the sweet and good-natured personal nurse to Harlan. Despite not having the Thrombey name, she shared a special bond with Harlan and has been welcomed with open arms by the family.
Director/writer Rian Johnson doesn’t waste any time getting to the point of the story. In fact, in the opening sequence, audiences will learn how Harlan has died. The full (and true) story will unravel piece by piece in a series of flashbacks and storytelling via the characters in question as they retell their perspectives to the detectives. But the unveiling of secrets never lets up, and the fun just doesn’t stop. As these secrets are revealed, bonds are broken, and the unthinkable occurs – all moments leading to an explosive final 30 minutes that you simply do not want to miss.
But even throughout the film, there’s much to look forward to. Johnson’s direction, for example, has a sort of avant-garde flair within this aged genre. The answers are in the details, and he does not shy away from bringing this statement to his camerawork and dialogue. With the set designs and witty script, which in itself celebrates cinema, the trio showcase a murder mystery that is bold, suave and entertaining, yet still emotionally compelling when it needs to be. And to help bring these sentiments to screen, the cast deliver exceptional performances. Michael Shannon, Chris Evans and Daniel Craig are standouts who share powerful on-screen appearances that will keep you engaged from beginning to end as their characters’ personalities take over the screen and each other. But make no mistake, this is Ana de Armas’ show, and it’s been a long time coming. Johnson gives her a character that must express a range of emotions, and Ana delivers with refined conviction.
When it comes to the mysteries of murder on the big screen, the ride towards the answer(s) may be better than figuring it out altogether. In the case of Knives Out, this statement couldn’t be truer. The film is crafted in a way that is clever enough to keep you guessing, but entertaining enough to make you not care if your guess is correct. Either way, this wonderfully-directed, close-to-perfect narrative celebrates everything we love about murder mysteries. And it’s exceptional in every way. Don’t let anyone spoil this for you. You won’t regret it!