Rian Johnson follows up one of the biggest movies of 2017, The Last Jedi from a small franchise called Star Wars, with a new film in the form of Knives Out. The film is said to be a return to the old fashioned “whodunnit” genre, influenced by classic murder mystery films, like Clue (1985), Murder by Death (1976), and Gosford Park (2001), as well as television series, Poirot and the works of Agatha Christie.
The film is centred around the Thrombey family, who are dealing with the death of patriarch, Harlan (who true to the genre, is a famous murder mystery writer), whose throat is mysteriously found slit. Soon comes the arrival of various police, including Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who along with Harlan’s maid and good friend, Marta (Ana de Armos), try to solve the case. All of Harlan’s relatives are suspects, and in more true form to the genre, it follows an ensemble cast, including Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell and Christopher Plummer.
There was a lot riding on this movie as a follow-up to The Last Jedi, as well as the huge buzz coming from it’s release at the Toronto Film Festival back in September. And it was a complete and utter blast from beginning to end. It’s the sort of the film that you won’t want to pee because you’ll be afraid of missing a single line of dialogue. If you venture out to see it, it will most likely be one of the funnest times at the cinema you’ll have all year.
If you are ever think that cinema, particularly recent releases, are ever too safe and predictable, then this film will really please you. It is jam-packed full of twists, and it’s safe to say that you never know where it’s going for one second. There is a particular twist after about 30 minutes that felt so brave and unexpected that it rivalled the decapitation moment from last year’s Hereditary.
There was a criticism (along with many others) about The Last Jedi that it was almost “too subversive”, and the film was the film was trying too hard to play with the audience’s expectations. And, along I do like The Last Jedi, Knives Out feels much more polished and well thought-out with it’s surprises. The film, although influenced by mystery cinema, felt more akin to recent movies like La La Land (2016) and Baby Driver (2017) by addressing an old-fashioned genre, but approaching it in a completely modern and new way.
The film also manages to manage it’s surprises and subversive plot with real comedy, wit and sometimes, even heart. Armas is a terrific leading heroine, who despite being possibly the most un-experienced of the main cast, completely held her own. There’s even some (admittedly, very small) social commentary about how she, a Cuban immigrant, manages to come out on top against the self-centred Thrombey family with just her good, nice-hearted nature.
Craig is also a great lead, and it’s great to see him showing his comedic chops after his great work in Logan Lucky from 2017. His southern drawl accent is a element that doesn’t completely work, but that doesn’t matter in the long run. In terms of the supporting cast, it’s hard to find a favourite in the star-studded supporting cast, but Evans and Collette are particularly very great and really funny, as was Plummer in his very small screen-time. There is a moment and scene for every character in this movie, and none of it’s cast members feel under-utilized.
Although the plot feels like it’s plucked straight from a television show (like Poirot), there are moments in this film that feel properly cinematic. Much like The Last Jedi, the cinematography is really gorgeous, especially the establishing shots of the mansion. The costume and set design is also very meticulous and detailed, particularly in the little details about the mansion.
This is probably the best and most polished work from Johnson as far. Brick, Looper and The Last Jedi were all good to great, but lacked feeling like anything more that just an director playing with a certain genre. This film did what the great Edgar Wright movies do by parodying a genre but still completely feeling like an completely individual piece of work.
Also, make sure you see this film in the biggest crowd as possible. I laughed, smiled and gasped, and we all did this together. Also, don’t look at spoilers and don’t let your friends tell you what happened because this is a movie best experience completely fresh. This, along many others (including Booksmart, The Peanut Butter Falcon, The Farewell and One Cut of the Dead), ranks up there as one of the best movies of the year. Hell, it might even be the best movie of the year.