Jacob Richardson | 2/12/2019
Smart, witty, funny and packed full of twists to keep you on the edge of your seat.
When Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), legendary author and patriarch of the Thrombey family fortune, is found with a knife in his hand and his throat slit ear to ear, it seems like an open and shut case of suicide (or at least, that’s what LaKeith Stanfield’s Lieutenant Elliott wants to belive). But when renowned private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) gets hired mysteriously to investigate alongside the police, it appears that there may just be more than meets the eye in this tragic set of circumstances. To complicate matters more, the suspicious parties of children Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), Walt (Michael Shannon) and Joni (Toni Collette), along with partners like Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson), grandchildren like Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans) and carer Marta Cabrera (Ana De Armas) all seem to stand something to gain from Harlan’s death.
With Knives Out, Rian Johnson doesn’t shy away from the fact that this is a tried and true format; effectively a game of cluedo writ large. Indeed, he leans into some of those classic tropes for both homage and humour; the mysterious detective shrouded in shadow, the creepy and weird house with hidden doors, the detective always one step ahead of the criminal - all of these and more are played for comic effect, or to ground the piece in the steeped history of all classic sleuthing stories that have come before.
Johnson instead lends his more modern sensibility to the script, which is razor sharp and refined to within an inch of its life. Witty repartee between the various warring factions of this family zing off the screen with a pizazz you miss too often in cinema these days, and Daniel Craig’s southern drawling detective spouts hilariously incomprehensible witticisms and metaphors like a scattergun sprinkler drenching the audience in a glistening haze of hilarity. The dialogue is so beautifully crafted as to become a character in its own right; a silent narrator, dictating the course of the film in a way more prominent than other movies (at no point does this truly feel ~real~), but also more satisfyingly than other films.
Speaking of beautiful craft, the set design and costuming in Knives Out is on another level. Whether it is every big fit Jamie Lee Curtis wears, or the simplest of white sweaters Chris Evans sulks in, every frame of this film is a colourful and lively painting. From a performance perspective, the characters here are frequently one note, but Johnson gives his cast permission to breathe life into them, and thus they become far more memorable and engaging than their cardboard cut-out origins. Craig is particularly good (he always astounds with accents), as is De Armas, and mixed amongst them is a gloriously twinkly eyed performance by Christopher Plummer.
Knives Out is just excellent filmmaking. Thoroughly enjoyable, and a throwback to murder mysteries of old, this is a must-see.