Friday, November 22, 2019

Knives Out

Rian Johnson delivers a devilishly good time in this fantastically entertaining whodunit set around the apparent suicide of the patriarch (Christopher Plummer) of a wealthy family. Set almost entirely in the Thrombey home, the writer/director makes excellent use of both setting and a talented cast featuring Daniel Craig as private investigator Benoit Blanc who has reason to believe murder has been committed. Part Hercule Poirot and part Columbo, Craig is in good form as the smartest man in the room.

The suspects include every member of the dysfunctional Thrombey family (Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford, Michael Shannon, Jaeden Martell, and Riki Lindhome) each of whom has motive for murder. To help unravel the family's dysfunction, Blanc enlists the help of the deceased's nurse (Ana de Armas). The large supporting cast offers opportunities for several of its stars to steal scenes including Evans playing a role as far removed as possible from Steve Rogers and Johnson as a perfect rich douchebag completely oblivious to his own behavior.

The murder-mystery reveals some of its secrets earlier than expected, while leaving others until its final scenes. Without giving away anything specific, I will say Johnson's script is filled with a mix of tense drama, clever reveals, and smart one-liners (including the most perfect description of a will reading I have ever heard) that received so many laughs I wonder how many other jokes may have been drowned out by the audience's boisterous appreciation. Less over-the-the top than Clue, though similar in other ways, Knives Out does deliver its share of unexpected antics on its way to solving the mystery. Finding herself cast as the least objectionable human being in the film, Ana de Armas imbues her character with a great deal of heart while Marta also struggles over revealing secrets that may be pertinent to the investigation.

The has been some discussion that Johnson would consider writing more Blanc mysteries if Knives Out does well. In a time where audiences are dealing with more than a little franchise fatigue, I can't think of a better kind of franchise to start (or a better way to start) than with Knives Out. Sign me up right now for several sequels featuring the same dark humor and sly writing that are on display here.

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