By: Jolie Featherstone
Director Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: Episode XIII – The Last Jedi) makes a triumphant return to his whodunnit-loving form with Knives Out. Fourteen years after his much-loved debut feature, Brick, a passionately-told film noir set in a modern-day Southern California high school, Johnson’s Knives Out charmed audiences with one of the most talked-about films at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
Knives Out follows the macabre aftermath of a family celebration. Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a prolific mystery author with worldwide acclaim. Due to his financial success, he has been able to support his family members’ various livelihoods and hobbies. When he is discovered dead in his home the day after his 85th birthday party, the police are called to question everyone who attended the party. The police officers are joined by an alluring “gentleman detective”, Benoit Blanc (007 himself Daniel Craig), who has been hired by an anonymous client to get to the bottom of this grisly crime. With each of the Thrombey family members a suspect, Benoit has his work cut out for him. When Benoit meets Harlan Thrombey’s nurse and trusted confidante, Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), he quickly sidles up to her to help him crack the case.
Johnson’s love for transplanting classic mysteries into contemporary circumstances imbues the entire film with a sharp wit and a full heart. Indeed, Knives Out wouldn’t be nearly as delightfully fun as it is if it were in the hands of anyone else. Johnson’s deft writing keeps the story fresh and moving at a good pace. He pays homage to the mysteries of yesteryear while also injecting (albeit light) socio-economic commentary. It truly is a whole-hearted ensemble comedy and each character is brought to life with devilish relish.
After surprising audiences with his turn in 2017’s criminally underrated Logan Lucky, Craig displays his comedy chops yet again. Craig’s Benoit Blanc has a Southern drawl as slow and thick as honey, with mischievous allure to spare. Ana de Armas breathes life into Marta. Marta is the antonym to the entitled, out of touch, and irresponsible Thrombey family. Despite her angelic qualities, Marta never feels unattainably righteous thanks to Ana de Armas’ astute handling.
Knives Out is an Agatha Christie-esque whodunit with blockbuster appeal that is driven by Johnson’s keen understanding that half of the fun of watching a whodunnit lies in getting to play Poirot and attempting to beat Benoit Blanc to the punch. As a result, the film never feels tired and may throw even the most astute amateur Poirot for a loop or two!
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Jolie Featherstone: @TOFilmFiles