Imagine if the classic board game, Clue came to life. Now replace all the characters with A-List celebrities such as Chris Evans, Daniel Craig, and Jamie Lee Curtis and you have Knives Out. This Agatha Christie like story takes the audience through more twists and turns than a winding country road and might possibly be the most fun you have going to the movies. Lies, deceit, and mostly laughs are all things that make Knives Out an entertaining and amusing watch.
The film takes place in modern day America at a house that looks as if it belongs in the 1800’s. Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a successful and reputable murder mystery novel writer and head of a dysfunctional and greedy family. On the eve of his 85th birthday, Harlan is found dead under suspicious circumstances and everyone is a suspect. There’s Harlan’s prosperous and professional daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), her husband Richard (Don Johnson), and their “black sheep of the family” son Ransom (Chris Evans). There’s Harlan’s son Walt (Michael Shannon) who oversees the family publishing company that Harlan so graciously let him run, and daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette) whose husband died some 15 years ago but is happy to be one of the family (or at least happy to leech off of the family’s money). Rounding out the Thrombey clan are the two cousins, one being a teenage right-wing advocate Jacob (Jaeden Lieberher) and college girl Meg (Thirteen Reasons Why star, Katherine Langford).
The case, originally ruled a suicide, is suddenly open for investigation by famous detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who has, as Ransom describes it, a Foghorn Leghorn thick accent. Blanc enlists the help of Harlan’s young nurse and trusted confidante Marta (Ana de Armas) as she was arguably the only person that Harlan trusted and because of her inability to lie without throwing up her lunch. Will they be able to solve the perplexing mystery full of many suspects with compelling motives?
Writer and director Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) manages to weave a delicate web of mystery while keeping the biggest revelations under wraps. He cleverly keeps the audience on their feet by divulging small clues that they think will be the final pieces of the puzzle and then spins us in an entirely different direction. Going into a murder mystery film, everyone’s goal is to solve the clues before the final revelations drop, but Knives Out is not as simple of a picture as it first appears.
Knives Out is insanely enjoyable not only because of its compelling plot and twists that would make M. Night Shyamalan proud, but also because of the way the cast takes this story and characters and simply has fun. Even when sitting in the audience, you can detect the amount of enjoyment that each cast member had when making this film. It was refreshing to see long tenured stars like Curtis, Collette, and Craig fill the screen with buzzing energy and trade a usually serious demeanor for a rebellious and mischievous performance. Chris Evans, who is usually sporting patriotic colors and a mask, finally put down the shield and shined as the bad boy family member. Evans traded his hero façade for a devilish personality and the outcome was anything short from fantastic. The only shortcoming of this star-studded cast is that many of the accomplished actors and actresses do not get a great portion of screen time because of the multitude of talent. Craig and de Armas mainly take command of the screen which is by no means in vein as de Armas, in her first leading role to date, delivers a spectacular performance as the heart to the film. Marta (de Armas’ character) is about the only wholesome character in the movie and sticks out like a diamond in coal. The Thrombey’s claim to consider her family, even though none of them can seem to remember which South American country she has immigrated from. You will find yourself rooting for Marta as she restores in us a sense of goodness and purity that we can only hope is still left in the world.
Do not go into Knives Out expecting to leave with deep moral messages or satirical comparisons but to watch a delectable film with stunning visual shots, lively performances, and a great piece of entertainment. It is a witty mystery worthy of one’s attention that positions ‘Whodunit’ films back on the radar.