Like the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out keeps you guessing, thinking, and in suspense. It is a fantastically entertaining web of a film, utilizing the tricksiness of a murder plot to create spectator engagement in pursuit of the truth. Johnson’s previous film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, was terrifically great and with Knives Out he continues his rather flawless streak of filmmaking.
Starring an all-star cast, Johnson allows for each character to shine, but the main star is really Ana De Armas (Blade Runner 2049). De Armas is the center-thread to the unraveling of Johnson’s tightly-knit whodunnit, followed by Daniel Craig (Skyfall) and a pitch-perfect Chris Evans (The Avengers). The film is beyond hilarious which makes it stand out from other recent whodunnits. Its razor-sharp wit allows for a deliriously entertaining ride.
A fateful evening leads to the death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), the nearly eldest and head of the family. A detective (Lakeith Stanfield), trooper (Noah Segan) and a private investigator (Daniel Craig) work to solve the winding mystery surrounding the happenings of Mr. Thrombey’s demise, a perfect slice to the throat. No suspects are eliminated, they proceed to interview the relatives of the patriarch. It is to no coincidence that Thrombey was last scene with his personal nurse, Marta Cabrera (Ana De Armas), who has a strange quirk that every time she lies- she gets sick.
Rian Johnson’s film boasts cunning humor, detail, and intrigue. His crafting of the unveiling of narrative clues to the eventual wrapping up is a testament to his screenplay’s brilliance. Backing his top-notch screenplay is his observational direction with its noticeable quirks such as the whip-pans and expressive zooms to convey a deeper meaning to the action onscreen. Johnson is able to showcase and characterize the setting incredibly well; the Thrombey house is glorious to look at.
Surprisingly the film owes all to Ana De Armas; she is absolutely the lead and by god does she act her socks off. Her terrific screen presence is backed by the excellently quirky Daniel Craig, who does an uncanny southern accent like no other. In the massive ensemble, the clear standouts (besides the previous two) are Chris Evans and Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music). I have never seen an 89-year-old man so alive on film, it is as if Johnson has reinvigorated Plummer’s glory days to produce this perfectly cheeky and child-like performance of sweet gravitas. Evans is in top form, he is undoubtedly one of the performers we will all be talking about for a long time with some unforgettably hilarious moments.
Knives Out is a thrillingly intriguing ride. It is tense and mysterious with Rian Johnson’s fantastic directing and super-tight script. Ana De Armas owns the film, along with the backing of Daniel Craig and Chris Evans. Although it is unlikely (fingers crossed though) to be a large Oscar contender, it is remarkably sharp and pristinely executed in a way that it may sneak into some very deserving categories.