Free For All
Rian Johnson’s latest film is an homage to murder mystery novels, TV shows, and films while also reinventing the wheel of the typical format. It cleverly reinvigorates the genre and breathes something fresh that is equally funny yet suspenseful. With a star studded cast at his side and an engaging mystery afoot, Knives Out is one of my favorite films of the year showing that 2019 still has some great hits yet to come.
After Harlan Thrombey’s 85th birthday party in which he has invited his children to attend, he is found dead the next morning with a knife and a pool of blood next to him. While it seems like a suicide, Daniel Craig’s Detective Benoit Blanc suspects foul play and begins an investigation that leaves no one unscathed as a possible murder suspect.
This is an excellent star studded cast featuring the likes of Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Ana de Armas, Christopher Plummer, Lakeith Stanfield and many others. The true stand outs from this ensemble are Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas. Craig’s southern accent is something that may offput audiences and seem too hammy and over the top, and yet it works for the setting of this film and you buy into the campiness within just a few minutes. Armas on the other hand has to portray a wide range of emotions from being scared to confident. Being amongst such a powerhouse cast, Armas may get lost in the mix but her genuinity shines through for the duration of the run time.
Johnson has cleverly written his script in a way that has not been done for a murder mystery before. It is funny and tense at the same time, but it never feels out of place or awkward. There are moments of tension that are truly nail biting and then in later scenes the slapstick dialogue between this eccentric and dysfunctional family is quite hilarious. It is a blend only certain directors can tackle, and the cast/script really play well with this balance.
The story gives a surprising amount of details from the beginning of the movie which challenges you to process differently from a typical mystery film. It leans into something that is more engaging and tense given the depth with which the plot demands. Moreover, you are left second guessing yourself quite a bit during the film leaving you in a place of disbelief by the movies end for the better. The movie doesn’t complicate its reveals for the sake of it, but rather organically works things through for the most part to create a compelling and gripping mystery.
The movie’s setting in an old timey house yet in modern times allows Johnson to pay homage to past murder mysteries and whodunits. There are so many times where Johnson is poking fun at some of the tropes of the genre and yet honors them as a subtle wink to the audience. We are in on the subtleties, inviting us to be a part of this interesting take and presentation of suspense.
In terms of flaws, the movie has a great first two acts but does falter a little bit near the end. After being so clever for most of the run time, the final few scenes rely on information overload rather than on its clever devices it has established earlier in the film. It is still clever and unique in its own right, but the same momentum isn’t consistent thorughout the run time. The movie also tries to lend itself to some social commentary scenes but it doesn’t always pan out in the best way. It is more cringe than relevant, but thankfully those scenes are very limited in the grand scheme of things.
Knives Out is another cleverly made film by Rian Johnson that breathes a new life into a genre. It has a new perspective on processing through reveals and just when you think you have seen it all, Johnson has once again subverted expectations and delivered something truly amazing. I would love to see this film again and relish in the nuances and tricks he used to throw off audiences and laugh at his clever writing. I would highly recommend this film as it will undoubtedly be one of my favorites this year.