RE­VIEW: ‘Knives Out’ de­liv­ers needed who­dunit

The Saline Courier - - NEWS - By J.T. John­son

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.

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