Knives Out cast review

Year: 2019
Director(s): Rian Johnson
Writer(s): Rian Johnson
Region of Origin: USA
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: PG-13
Color, 130 mins

Synopsis: A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family. (Source)

A well-crafted murder mystery is rare enough, but Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is much more than meets the eye. Johnson’s latest is a love letter to classic murder tales, but with a message that cuts deep in today’s climate of social dissonance and rising injustice. Turning a myriad of colorful characters into a sharp microcosm of wealth and privilege, Johnson makes the genre feel new and necessary. His ensemble is simply irresistible, the twists are impossible to see coming, and overall, this is a seamless balance of fun and complexity. It screams for multiple viewings and is the calling card of a master storyteller with lots to say and the unique voice to make it count. 

This time out, the victim is a wealthy murder mystery writer named Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). After years of best selling novels, the writer is found with his throat slit, an apparent suicide the night after his 85th birthday party. What appears as an open and shut case, is not so, however. A celebrity private dick named Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) suspects foul play. Thrown in the middle of it all, is the late Thrombey’s nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas). She was close to the family personally and professionally, but forced to fend for herself after a revelation pits her them. 

With any film like this, the least I say, the better. What is easy to proclaim, is how addictive and fun the entire thing is. Beginning with a set of candid interviews, Johnson cleverly introduces the stakes and a large collection of characters,. The film then zig zags between fuzzy recollection, flat-out lies and an evolving paranoid plot. Though most of the plot is confined to the Thrombey residence, Johnson finds ways to make the story feel bigger than it is. The dialogue is also indeed as sharp as a knife. Each family member constantly digs into each other like a pack of wolves. And yet, at the heart of the film, the numerous twists and turns never forsake character or humanity. Despite the dark humor that surrounds everything, there’s a crystalline beating heart found within Marta. Unclouded unlike the Thrombeys, she’s the centerpiece of a biting critique on one-percenter greed. Johnson is also careful to never never victimize. She guides us through the story’s web by refreshingly maintaining her integrity and a desire to do what’s right. 

Knives Out Daniel Craig

In a story this dense and full of life, it’s impossible to properly pay tribute to the ensemble at play. If I had to pick just a few standouts, Daniel Craig is having the most fun he’s every had with Blanc’s southern drawl. Chris Evans, meanwhile, is pitch perfect as the family’s savage and calloused black sheep. The entire thing is a house of dominos, however, that rests on Armas’ complexity. She stitches the film together at every seam, providing a character who is smart and strong, but also sensitive. Bottom line, Armas is the film’s not-so-secret weapon, making it hit where it needs to and driving home the emotional weight of the film’s unpredictable final act. But seriously, everyone in the film gets a moment to shine and is impossible to look away from.

Knives Out is so fun, it’s impossible to watch without a giant grin. Unlike a lot of films in the genre, Johnson’s shocks have a delicate and purposeful design. This film is complex and nuanced but not complicated, and is always in service to character and human motivation first. With Steve Yedlin’s striking photography providing atmosphere, and Johnson’s delicate direction, the film speeds toward its conclusion and feels as if it’s over too soon. As a testament to Johnson, we also can’t wait to watch again it straight away, just to see how he pulled off such a magnificent magic trick.