A wealthy aging mystery writer is found dead in his private study, curiosity of a knife. Police rule the death as a suicide, but a fancy gentleman detective suspects foul play. The suspects are the writer’s family, varying in personality but having no shortage of dysfunction. A fortune in millions is at stake- but before any money can be inherited, the culprit must be brought to justice. Of course, this is a mystery, and everyone has an alibi. Welcome to “Knives Out,” an innovation in the mystery genre.
Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” is a unique take on the classic whodunnit. From the start this film wastes no time as it throws you right into the mystery. Pacing is fast as we get to meet each suspect as they recount the evening the murder takes place. At first the film feels like a classic mystery, tropes and clichés included, with only the flavor of modern times thrown in. But there are so many twists and turns in the movie that all expectations are shattered. This film is a triumph because it has a structure and careful direction that benefits a mystery movie. The film is also hard to figure out the first time around. I can easily promise you your guesses, deductions, and predictions will be more wrong than right. “Knives Out” will not go the way you think it will.
A film can have great structure, set pieces, and scenery, but the soul of the movie rests with the actors. “Knives Out” has quite the ensemble cast to back it up. Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell and Christopher Plummer round out this fantastic cast. While there are some big names in the cast, they all act like smaller character actors/actresses. This small detail lets them add their own flavor with their respective characters in a way they couldn’t if they were simply playing the lead. Also, due to the structure of the film, there is no true lead. Since everyone is a suspect, their characters are all distinct in personality and motivation. This adds intrigue, charm and humor to the narrative.
The most standout of the cast is Daniel Craig, Ana De Armas and Chris Evans. De Armas plays caretaker Marta with a nervous and genuine energy, providing an emotional depth that helps elevate the film. Craig is Benoit Blanc, a suave and old-fashioned southern gentleman detective who looks like he stepped out of the 1940s. Craig offers some of the funniest moments with his precise wordplay and seems to enjoy distancing himself from his James Bond persona. Chris Evans plays a character named Ransom, a self-proclaimed rebel and playboy of the family. Ransom is rude, crude, cocky and oddly charming. Evans chews every scene and finally lets loose after playing Captain America for a decade. Evans looks like he is having a blast playing against his Marvel credentials.
If I feel a strong connection to a movie, I buy it physically. In a world dominated by streaming services and digital downloads, this may seem unnecessary. However, I grew up in a generation that bought DVDs and went to rental stores. I own and watch a lot of films, but nowadays I’m more selective on my DVD purchases. There are films you buy when you can, films you wait for a sale, and the films that you’d never waste money on. As soon as the credits rolled for “Knives Out,” I turned to my girlfriend and said, “this movie is a buy.”
This is not a small thing for me. I am a working man, and I budget my entertainment carefully. For me to desire to own a film physically, only shortly after watching it for the first time based on my gut emotions, is the highest praise I can give. “Knives Out” is a wonderful movie experience that intrigued every step of the way. As one of the most entertaining films of 2019 I hope it renews interest in the mystery genre. Whether you buy DVDs, wait for a streaming service or try to catch it in the theaters, “Knives Out” should not be missed.