Rian Johnson’s KNIVES OUT (2019) looked like a fun mystery film, but I never could’ve expected how utterly fantastic it is. The film takes place in the aftermath of mystery author Harlan Thrombey’s (Christopher Plummer) sudden death. As his remaining family comes together to read his will, southern detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is anonymously hired to investigate.
I have to start off with the all-star cast that this movie pulled together. Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, and Michael Shannon are just a few of the remanining stars present in the film. Each one of them plays their character flawlessly. Evans is an arrogant playboy who drives a vintage BMW and wears designer clothes; Curtis is a stereotypical “daddy’s girl” who rode on the back of her father, with the help of a $1 million loan, to become a “self made” businesswoman; Johnson and Collette both play in-laws, one is the adulterous husband, the other a sidelined “lifestyle guru”; and Shannon is that son who’s basically useless, so he’s given a job at the family’s publishing house to feel better about himself.
Yes, each character is a stereotype straight from an Agatha Christie novel, but each actor plays their respective character so well that they seem natural and believable. They actually feel like real people instead of the well- known caricatures they represent, and the humor that derives from their interactions is phenomenal. Of course, some of the humor might be a tad bit on the ridiculous side, but because the film is so self- aware, it is incredibly natural. Daniel Craig’s Southern accent is a perfect example of this humour: he is the anonymous, yet odd detective with a thick accent from far away- a direct homage to both Poirot and Holmes- but an added layer of incompetency to the detetctive makes it not only a hilarious tribute, but also more realistic. Everything plays together to create a story that feels grounded in reality, no matter how absurd it gets.
The film feels like a genuine love letter to the whodunnit genre and features callbacks to its many components, including the big mansion, the many bizarre players with hidden motives, and an elaborate murder plot with a big reveal in the parlour- another reference to both Poirot and Holmes. This is all executed flawlessly, creating a film with a deep appreciation for its genre and predecessors.
The film is also contextualized for present day by adding modern references. Harlan’s grandchildren, Meg (Katherine Langford) and Jacob (Jaeden Martell), for instance, hold opposing political beliefs and are constantly mocked of by the rest of the family. Meg is called a “social justice warrior” for having a degree that aligns with a liberal ideology, while Jacob, is mocked for being an online troll and is often compared to a Nazi. There’s awkward political debates amongst the family throughout the film’s entirety, with each family member taking a stereotypical train of thought. It’s a great touch that updates the mystery genre for the present day, making the story a lot more relatable.
KNIVES OUT is genuinely a great movie. The film is a loving tribute to the “whodunnit” genre in a modern era; no matter how ridiculous it gets at times, it still feels believable. The characters, the story, and the world in general are built so well that the ridiculousness feels perfectly natural and even relatable. The star studded cast is perfect, with each actor embodying their character and it is one of the best films I’ve seen in the last few years.