When a crime novelist dies just after his eighty fifth birthday, an inquisitive detective arrives at his estate to investigate. He soon sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind the writer’s untimely demise.
Murder mysteries and crime shows/movies are the subject of fascination by millions of people all around the world. There is just something highly intriguing about murder mysteries and attempting to guess who the culprit is. Throughout the years, there have been many movies and television programs that have a “whodunnit” premise. One of the most famous examples of this is a show from the 1980s called Unsolved Mysteries and was hosted by Robert Stack.
Even quite recently we had a new film adaptation of the Agatha Christie story Murder on the Orient Express directed by Kenneth Branagh, which was met with a mixed to negative response from both critics and audiences. What am I getting at here? Whodunnit stories are extremely interesting for people and they are always a blast to watch. I know for sure I enjoy watching them, which is one of the many reasons I was excited for Rian Johnson’s latest feature Knives Out.
Johnson is not only an incredibly talented director, but he is a skillful writer as well. It never fails to amaze me how amazing his writing and direction is in every one of his films, particularly Brick and the tremendously controversial Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In my opinion, though, Johnson really knows how to make a gripping story, and direct it with ease, and I can happily say that Knives Out is no exception.
Before going to see this picture, I had heard all over social media and from various friends online that this was a great film, and I believed it, but I was really not ready for how good it was going to be. Let’s just talk about one of the best things in the film right off the bat – the acting. Knives Out has one of the biggest ensemble casts in cinema in quite some time. From Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Michael Shannon just to name a few, there is no doubting the talent on camera. There are even some recently well known faces in here such as Ana de Armas, known for her role in Blade Runner 2049 and Jaeden Martell known for It.
And even though I thought every single actor involved brought their A game and did a truly fantastic job in every single scene, the true standout here is without a doubt Armas. I have been familiar with a few of her films in the past, such as the aforementioned Blade Runner 2049, and I know how talented she is, but her performance in this movie genuinely blew me away.
She is so raw and believable in this role and gets the job done perfectly. There are some sequences in which she has to show quite a bit of emotion as well, and she makes it look easy. In fact, there is one scene early on where she cries, and it looked one hundred percent authentic.
Now, one of the actors I was most excited to see in this film was Toni Collette, as I think that she is one of the most talented actresses of all time. Not only do I think that she delivered one of the greatest performances ever in Ari Aster’s 2018 horror feature Hereditary, but I also think that Hereditary is the greatest film ever made. Although Collette does do a good job in Knives Out, she barely gets any screen time.
In fact, a large portion of the cast does get depressingly underused here which is a shame since the cast is so massive and so talented. Instead, the film makes the decision to primarily focus on Armas and Craig. That is okay, but I just wish we could have gotten more out of the highly impressive cast.
It is also gorgeously shot by Steve Yedlin, who has served as the director of photography on every single one of Johnson’s films to this day. While this is not Yedlin’s best looking film (that for me would have to be the previously mentioned The Last Jedi), this is still an absolutely mesmerizing film that he shot with plenty of skill.
But perhaps my favorite element of this picture was the script and the many twists and turns it has up its sleeve. As somebody that has seen hundreds of movies in their lifetime, sometimes it can just be so easy to predict where certain plot points are going to go, especially mystery movies like this. But I have to say, I was totally wrong about my predictions for the story here. There is a point in the film in which most people are going to think one thing, and then later on, it gets flipped on you. I would honestly be surprised if there are some people that see Knives Out and they actually correctly predict what happens in the story. It is a wild and immensely satisfying thrill-ride that I am not going to forget any time soon.
Knives Out is a wild and exhilarating thrill-ride with an incredibly talented cast and solidifies Rian Johnson as a highly skillful writer/director.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material
Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Running Time: 130 minutes