Written by Tom Button
Knives Out is written and directed by Rian Johnson and stars Daniel Craig, Lakeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon and Christopher Plummer.
This modern-day murder mystery centres around a rich publishing family on the night of their father’s (Plummer) death. The Thrombey’s call in the esteemed sleuth Benoit Blanc (Craig) and local officer Lieutenant Elliott (Stanfield) to investigate. Everyone is a suspect and everyone has something to gain from his death. What follows is a series of events, twists and turns to bring the long-dead genre, murder mystery, back to life in this whip-smart original story.
All of the cast do a great job here. Many personalities within the family clash in interesting ways.
Craig and de Armas are standouts here: Craig, with his hilarious southern accent, is smooth and warm.
His actions are perfectly overplayed and exaggerated and were responsible for some of the film’s funniest moments. Craig’s swagger and confidence make it a role he can just lose himself in and has a perfect sense of comedic timing, even in moments of tension.
De Armas as Marta holds her own and stands out among the Hollywood heavyweights. Her interactions with Blanc, Elliott and especially Plummer’s Harlan Thrombey are sweet and humorous. She adds a down-to-earth brevity which made me care about her and the other characters. Her sweetness contrasts well with the family’s overwhelming privilege and her character drives home an important message: normalcy in an elite family.
Evans plays the bratty Ransom, a cocky man who doesn’t care much for his family. He comes off as annoying at first, but with witty one-liners and catty dialogue throughout he grows on you.
As the film continued, I found myself warming to his character more and more, his slick personality winning me over at almost every turn. His interactions with his family and Marta manage to be both funny and insightful.
Curtis plays Linda, eldest daughter of Harlan whose standoff personality is punctuated with harsh zingers which cut through other characters like butter. As the eldest, she feels a responsibility towards her family which no one ever seems to realise. Her attempts to control them are met with barbs and curses, which are played off as jokes.
Both Shannon and Collette have smaller roles; Shannon as baby brother Walt and Collette as the lifestyle guru Joni, yet they make the most of them and play into the dynamic well. Walt is fussy, getting himself into arguments he can’t win and Joni acts like the idiot.
Collette shows us that she has a penchant for comedy and some lines are laugh-out-loud funny. This is rare for a primarily dramatic actress to make the switch so seamlessly and without fear. Shannon’s arguments are played for laughs but he can also come across as quite sinister, highlighting the family’s greed and lust for power.
Stanfield plays the straight-laced cop who is in way over his head on this case. He is baffled by the family’s dynamic and even more so at Blanc’s quirky methods. Out of all of them, this is the weakest performance for me; not because it wasn’t funny, but because there is very little to do with the character. Yet, Stanfield stuck it out and gave the audience a voice of reason it needed to stay afloat.
Johnson, whose Star Wars film was divisive, hits back hard at his critics. Not only has he created a story and characters that were inspired by the works of Christie and Doyle, but has completely reinvigorated the entire genre.
The story is set in the present day but it was difficult to tell. The set design of this huge mansion is very impressive – immaculate is more the word. Every detail, from the furniture to the crazy and bizarre artefacts littered around is incredibly well realised and shot. The cinematographer Steve Yedlin, creates frames that look like paintings and achieves an effect with natural light which was near perfect.
Johnson’s original story is funny yet gripping. I was dying to see how it would end with its rip-roaring pace. I wasn’t bored at any point of the film as it kept its speedy and energetic tempo throughout. Johnson’s careful plotting is intricate and well managed, crafting something which had me riveted at every turn. The execution of all aspects was great and brought me a lot of laughs and entertainment, perfect for the holidays.
Knives Out is special; not just because of its well-assembled cast or hilarity/humour, but because it has resurrected a seemingly obsolete genre with gusto and vivacity unmatched by any other blockbuster release this season.
The cast was excellent and Johnson is a wonderfully diverse director, crafting an intriguing and entertaining whodunit for the whole family. The cinematography is great and the set design is a thing of beauty. Craig chews the scenery along with all the cast which do amazing work. Its humour is whip-smart, plotting and pacing furious and entertainment factor through the roof. This could be the movie that brings the family together over the festive period, year after year. I encourage everyone to go out and see this film, support Rian Johnson’s vision and just have all the fun in the world. If you go to the pictures even just once at this time of year, make it Knives Out. Superb stuff.