The whodunit style of mysteries has aged out with a few popping up here and there that tend to try too hard to outsmart the audience or become completely convoluted, making the whole affair idiotic. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out defies the current scene of cutting down a long list of murder suspects in a clever fashion that is still easily accessible for dummies like myself.
A week after the birthday celebration and death of millionaire author, father, and grandfather Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who dies in a rather suspicious manner. Thus bringing in Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield), Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan), and the famous private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) look into Harlan’s greedy, snobby family members. It twists and turns, confessions and lies are told, this is a wild ride every second.
Having a cluster of characters can get overwhelming to remember. Right away, everyone is introduced along with their possible motivations to kill Harlan and their relation to the head of the family. This is done without the cheese and avoids feeling like a barrage of information. To make this meeting of these despicable personalities even better, it weaves itself into the plot to keep everything moving forward rather than stopping just to set up everyone’s role.
Not only are each person memorable, but the starstudded cast highlights these people who I love to hate, with a couple of genuinely likable people like the investigators and Marta (Ana de Armas) as Harlan’s nurse, and friend. Having the ultra-liberal Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette), the seemingly sensible, yet deceiving Linda Thrombey (Jamie Lee Curtis), the spoiled and lazy Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans), the greedy Walt Thrombey (Michael Shannon), the heavily conservative Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson), Marta’s one true friend outside of Harlan, Meg (Katherine Langford), and the alt-right teenager Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell) completes a roster of disgusting rich folk who have their own quirks that make them distinguishable. Having distinct personality traits tends to get forgotten at some point, but each attribute has substance to the narrative while fleshing out these scummy human beings.
One of the beautiful things about the astonishing casting comes from allowing everyone to flex their skills in ways people normally don’t see. Evans got to play a selfish snob contrasting against his time as Captain America, and Craig gets another chance to be a Southerner like he did in Logan Lucky, with some slippage of his British accent, he does an overall solid job especially with that drawl that he nails.
The chemistry felt disgustingly natural. I felt the disappointment that was universally directed towards Ransom, I believed in the political tension between Joni, Jacob, and Richard, and I adored every second of sweet Marta, the only nice person associated with this clan of rich monsters.
The set up is so rhythmically done to make for a smooth viewing experience. Later on, when reveals popped up, it did not feel like Johnson tried to outsmart me or overly explained. Everything had logic to it and connections that were strategically placed for the observant audience member to catch or grab people who missed out on clues to come in for another viewing.
The bread crumbs did get some clarity by the finale’s disclosure, but not all, making for an attractive second viewing to catch everything I missed. I know I must have as I am an idiot when it comes to these things. Despite my stupidity, Johnson does make a fair game out of figuring out the master criminal’s plan before all of the cards get revealed.
Plenty of balance was made for the humor and thrilling investigation. The funny moments hit hard, I still felt Johnson could have taken a few extra steps to plant more jokes and subtle details for more laughs. The drama and suspense never misses a beat and delivers the perfect amount throughout the time frame.
Johnson has his film running like a well-oiled machine. He meticulously drives down this road without a pothole or wrong turn to be found. Being both the sole writer and director gives him full control in the best way imaginable, with only one brief moment of a plot device used to move things along. Still, he manages to steer clear of tactics to get my eyes rolling at his narrative.
Two sides of commentary embedded itself under the surface, focusing on politics and social class. The insight into the problems within the far left and right was done objectively to make sure nobody got a pass, but it failed to be impactful in any way as it did not manage hit its target when it comes to the overall message. The outlook on evil wealthy people was done successfully; however, it is hard to believe in the credibility when most people working on the film, especially the main stars and the guy who directed a Star Wars movie, are pointing the finger at influential people with a lot of money.
Few films get made that I want to rewatch, yet Johnson has me wanting to keep Knives Out on repeat. Littered with well-thought-out details with some of the most brilliant actors in the business to bring it all to life. It could have made for a more poignant experience, but nonetheless, this is a blast from start to finish.
Now I just want a rated R sequel where all of these horrible people get brutally killed slasher movie style. Come on, Johnson, do it, you coward.
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Image via Lionsgate