REVIEW: ‘Knives Out’ delivers needed whodunit
We really haven’t had a good “whodunit” in a long time, but writer and director Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” sets to change that. Thankfully, Johnson does a great job at giving us a colorful cast of characters and a clever mystery that you want to stick with all the way through to what feels like an inevitable ending. Still, that doesn’t mean that you’ll figure it all out after only five minutes.
I must admit that the film’s central mystery kept me guessing until pretty close to the end even when it looked like the film was laying everything out right away.
Set primarily in what one of the characters refers to as “a Clue mansion,” the movie introduces us to the Thrombey family. Their patriarch and famous mystery writer, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), has seemingly killed himself.
A few days later, though, the family gets a visit from private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). He has been hired my an anonymous client to investigate the suicide as a possible murder. Soon, everyone in the family has a possible motive and Blanc suspects foul play as the puzzle pieces are laid out for the characters and us in the audience to figure out.
The thing that makes most of the best whodunits work is the ensemble. Here, Johnson has assembled one hell of a cast that includes Craig, Plummer, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis,
Don Johnson, Michael Shannon and Toni Collette.
Every cast member here has a role to play and everyone gives deliciously good performances.
There are two standouts, though, and that includes Craig as Blanc and Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera. She was Harlan’s nurse and someone that he trusted completely with information about his troubled family. Marta also has a unique inability to lie because when she does, she immediately vomits.
This adds, yet, another interesting element to the mystery.
What is surprising about Johnson’s story is that it doesn’t go out of its way to break the formula of the mystery film. Instead, it embraces the tropes of its genre and twists them ever so slightly so that they provide a fresh experience.
Therefore, the film feels familiar but doesn’t feel like a needless retread over what was previously a dead and seemingly outdated genre.
The movie could have also been extremely cynical, but instead, it offers to provide nothing more than a good time. You feel like you’ve been invited to the ultimate murder mystery party and you’re glad you accepted the invitation. Now, some of the more clever audience members may be able to figure out the film, but I think even those more astute members will fall in love with the drama and humor found within.
I figured that I would like “Knives Out.” Johnson is a fantastic storyteller with hits such as “Looper” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” under his belt. What I didn’t expect was that the movie would end up being one of my favorite films of the year and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to have a good time and loves a good mystery.