“Knives Out” is the exact type of counter-programming that was needed for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Written and Directed by Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s Rian Johnson, this is a throwback to the types of murder mystery-whodoneit that we haven’t really seen in a while. It’s closer to a drama than a black-comedy, but there’s a wry humor that permeates throughout that keeps the guessing more fun than gruesome.
In the same flavor as Clue, Murder on the Orient Express, and Deathtrap, you have a murder, a collection of characters, each of whom has a reason to have done it, and a sleuth investigation on the job. Who did it, why was it done, and how was it done, all comes into play as the action unfolds. In the case of Knives Out, the patriarch of the wealthy Thrombey family, Harlan (played by Christopher Plummer) has been found dead of an apparent suicide the evening of his 85th birthday party. The police have ruled it a suicide, and a pair of police detectives have arrived to go over a final series of questions for the family members who had been in attendance. Along with the official detectives there’s also a third mysterious detective, Benoit Blanc (played as a Southern gentleman private detective by none other than the current James Bond himself, Daniel Craig).
Beyond Plummer and Craig, the rest of the family’s casting is a who’s who list of talent, including Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, and Toni Collettee. An additional member of the cast is Blade Runner 2049‘s Ana de Armas playing Marta Cabrera, Harlan’s nurse and caretaker. Every member of the family is unsavory in their own way and it seems might have had motives to see Harlan offed.
There’s a number of plot pivots along the way (it can’t be too easy, or there wouldn’t be any fun in the ride), and the dialogue and characters are intelligently played and fresh. Blanc isn’t played quite as superhuman in his deductions as Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, but he is recognizably cut from some of the same cloth. It’s a genre that sinks or swims based on the strength of it’s core mystery and casting and Johnson has pulled together a stellar cast and set them up to play off of each other that moves it along and you don’t notice that it comes in at just over 2 hours of running time.
Knives Out is rated PG-13.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5.