A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.
Director Rian Johnson is known for two things: pissing off the Stormtroopers and wanna-be Jedis of the Internet with his iteration of Star Wars: The Last Jedi; and doing so unapologetically. In other words, for those of us who aren’t invested in Star Wars, Rian Johnson is relatively new and unheard of. Few might remember his 2012 sci-fi Looper with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt which was well received back in the day. Johnson’s style is quite radical in that he emphatically likes to think outside the box and is not worried about appeasing box office numbers or hardline critics, even if it costs him. This what makes Knives Out so enjoyable: if you can forgive the occasional and questionable leaps in logic, the film proves to be an enjoyable ride.
Knives Out is a ‘whodunit’ murder mystery surrounding the apparent suicide of wealthy murder mystery author Harlan Thrombey and the revered private detective Benoit Blanc anonymously hired to investigate the case. Over the course of the next several days, Detective Blanc will have to interrogate the entire family and find any evidence in the house to determine whether Thrombey truly killed himself. The plot structure is by no means unique, a whole genre being dedicated to these types of films. However where Johnson shines is in the little gimmicks here and there to make the ride all the more enjoyable: be it the girl who pukes every time she lies or the excessively flamboyant yet self-aware detective Blanc, Johnson seemingly rejuvenate what was once a rather stale genre by turning murder mystery clichés on their heads in an adequately paced and enjoyable adventure. The only trope is that in doing so, Johnson et al. seem to have overlooked the questionable suspension of disbelief required to believe the climactic plot twist. I am unsure whether the clues to the real conclusion were all that apparent if they even existed. However, in the spirit of Christmas, I’m willing to let Johnson off the hook this time.
The film is stuffed to an explosion with talented cast members: Toni Collette, Daniel Craig, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis (to name a few!). Nobody is phoning their performance in, quite the contrary actually – everyone seems to be enjoying their roles and taking advantage of every second of screen time they can get. The standout of them all is Daniel Craig, who seems to have given second-thoughts of slitting his wrists after signing on to play Bond again and indulged in his life-long dream of becoming a red-neck with a thick southern accent As to the rest of the cast, the only drawback however with such a packed cast is that individually each actor has relatively little to play with. Nonetheless, on the whole watching these all-stars play out this murder mystery is nonetheless enjoyable.
There is nothing particularly notable to say about the cinematography and production design in Knives Out, the plot and cast being the main selling-points. However needless to say Johnson does not un-deliver in this department either. The initial mockumentary-style filming combined with a series of POV-based flashbacks was certainly entertaining and effective before the film went back to being another Hollywood murder mystery. Had the film remained in its mockumentary-style and POV-based flashbacks, it arguably would have been a more original and entertaining film.
However, on the whole, Knives Out is an enjoyable family movie with enough quips and laugh-out-loud moments to please any demographic. While it may not be necessary to run out to the nearest movie theatre for, it certainly is worth a weekend movie night when it comes out on streaming.
- Entertaining Murder Mystery Gimmicks and Tropes
- Daniel Craig and Company's Enthusiastic Performances
- Initial Mockumentary & POV-Flashbacks
- Questionable Suspension of Disbelief
- Should have stuck with Mockumentary Film-Style