Knives Out is an engaging and fun whodunit story, complete with excellent writing and a stellar ensemble cast.
Director Rian Johnson puts his director and writer hats on for murder mystery that pays homage to the Agatha Christie while carving new ground and twists. The film stars an ensemble cast of Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, and Jaeden Martell as they slowly peel back the layers of death in the family. The film focuses on the death of multi-millionaire Harlan Thrombey after he is found dead the night of his birthday party. His entire lineage and heir are held as suspects as a suave detective investigates the clues. Full of twists and turns, Knives Out makes every single character a suspect and every clue visible to the viewer to piece together their case. Fresh, exciting and brilliantly acted, Knives Out has many things working for it, but most of all is its cast.
Knives Out works best because of its cast. Like most whodunits, each suspect has to feel engaging, believable, while having a touch of striking and fantastical personalities. The Thrombey family is one of the best examples of touching on all of these points. Much of this is due to having a cast that delivers the whimsical script in a completely self-serious manner, adding to the dry and sarcastic humor littered throughout. Of the cast, Ana de Armas leads the film well and is quickly becoming a household name in the industry. Michael Shannon and Chris Evans each sell their roles in the Thrombey family perfectly while Toni Collette and Jamie Lee Curtis each bring a sense of flavor and uniqueness to the characters. Leading the investigation is Daniel Craig’s Detective Benoit Blanc, a mix of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot with a southern twist. Craig does an incredible job keeping the film honest and amusing as he takes the audience from reveals to truths. The entire cast comes together in a chaotic fashion, much like Thrombey family themselves. The dysfunctionalities of the family perfectly reverberate through the actors and their on-screen chemistry.
Rian Johnson comes off of Star Wars: The Last Jedi to write and direct this murder mystery, the film has a unique yet familiar voice at the helm. Johnson once again proves his true brilliance shines in films like Knives Out. Johnson’s writing shines through in the script and the multiple twists and turns the film embarks on truly show Johnson having the time of his life. In the director’s chair, Rian once again proves his skill with strong directing and pacing. While the film dragged in a few points, the pacing of the film was spectacular outside of a slower first act. Most whodunit stories take forever setting everything up before the actual conflict starts. Johnson instead starts the film right in the crux of the investigation, brilliantly using each character’s alibis as a way to quickly introduce them and have audiences immediately making assumptions about each. As mentioned, the key to a mystery is for as many characters involved to seem like they have a motive. Through each narrative twist, you never truly eliminate anyone until the final few minutes come to pass.
Overall, Knives Out is an incredibly strong film that quickly solidifies itself as one of the most entertaining films of the year. A love letter to Agatha Christie, Rian Johnson is on his A-game in both writing and directing. Incredibly paced, spectacularly written and led by a strong ensemble cast, Knives Out will provide mystery movie fans with a ton of fun.