Knives Out

LIONSGATE (2019)

 

Director: Rian Johnson

 

Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer

Guess who's back? Rian’s back.

 

The director of one of the biggest movies of all time is back with something decidedly smaller. Knives Out marks a return to the big screen for Rian Johnson, nearly two years on from the release of the ever so divisive Star Wars: The Last Jedi and with it brings the return of the classic ‘whodunit?’. Of course, we had Murder on the Orient Express recently, but...that just wasn’t as good to be frank.

Think back to those classic Agatha Christie murder mysteries, sprinkle some contemporary leanings on them and you’ll end up with Knives Out. The all-important mystery revolves around the death of wealthy eighty-five-year-old novelist Harlan Thrombey (Plummer) after a successful family party and in the eyes of private investigator Benoit Blanc (Craig) – everyone’s a suspect. It’s the old classic set up; however, Johnson brings it firmly into the present times by tackling plenty of issues plaguing modern society (immigration, class, and internet trolls to name a few) with a self-aware smirk and never overstepping the mark into pure satire. For those that criticised Johnson use of humour in that Star Wars affair, it’s refreshing to state that he nails it this time around – Knives Out is, at times, hilarious and the use of comedy is woven in expertly with the suspense and intrigue of the central plot. The plot itself is teeming with twists and turns that have been crafted to keep you guessing and ensures the story remains just a few steps ahead of you – in fact, Johnson has created a marvellous mystery that is so delicious, you’ll overlook some of the contrivances that arise within it. On that, the various minds behind the movie have ensured that every frame of the movie is a joy to behold – the Thrombey family manor bears the classic visual hallmarks of the genre allowing DoP Steve Yedlin to craft some wonderful shots, the character wardrobes are sharp whilst Nathan Johnson’s score is strikingly effective. Everything is almost frustratingly well thought out, coming together to create a visual and aural feast.

 

The Thrombey family is made up of a stellar cast and everyone has come to play – this is an ensemble that, firstly, works and, secondly, has no weak links. Daniel Craig’s drawling detective has an odd magnetism to him, Ana de Armas delivers her best performance, Jamie Lee Curtis is great as a ‘self-made mogul’ and Chris Evans is dripping with levels of smarm and arrogance that would make Captain America ashamed. I could go on with the cast, however, everyone is on form here. That is especially true of Rian Johnson himself, his directorial signature moves are front and centre and the maturity that he lends to the proceedings is both steadying and stylish – Knives Out feels like a movie that Johnson has been desperate to create for years. His keen eye for the genre is obvious and the homages are playful and respectful but this is very much his movie, Knives Out isn’t simply an Agatha Christie takeoff and that’s a huge positive overall.

 

Though it’s fair to say you should approach every movie with an open mind and unsullied in regards to plot points, Knives Out is a great example of these ways of thinking. The less you know, the greater your enjoyment of this movie will be. Go in knowing nothing and you will not regret it. Knives Out blends a stellar ensemble cast with a contemporary spin on genre conventions, splendid visuals and a clever plot to deliver one of the most enjoyable movies you’ll see this year. Knives Out is clever, packed with smart twists and turns and is a dose of devilish fun. Whodunit? Rian Johnson, that’s who.

November 27th 2019

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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