Rian Johnson Carves Out an Appetizing Whodunit with Knives Out (Review)

by | Nov 26, 2019

Nothing brings family together like murder or fortune, right? Just in time for the holidays, Knives Out is exactly the type of after dinner affair you want to attend. An all-star cast featuring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans,  and Jamie Lee Curtis (just to name a few)? A murder mystery that’s not only clever, but also relevant? I mean, seriously. What’s not appealing about this original movie from writer and director Rian Johnson? From the start, Knives Out is endlessly entertaining, and by movie’s end, you’ll be asking yourself if you’ve had a more fun time at the movies this year. 

In Knives Out, the family of famed crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (played by the always great Christopher Plummer) gathers at his estate to celebrate his 85th birthday. Of course, with family comes all sorts of unique characters and personalities that bring up tense conversations, awkward moments, and the occasional political talk that no one wants to be part of. But family also causes a certain degree of disarray. And that disarray is heightened once it’s discovered the day after the birthday party that Harlan is dead. But how did he die? Who had a motive? Good thing Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is on the case! 

Rian Johnson neatly lays out all the characters at play in this murder mystery, who all could have a motive to end the life of  Harlan Thrombey. We get all angles and interviews from the birthday party and just about every one of them is different in some capacity. Who is telling the truth? Why are people lying? The twists and turns of Knives Out are more frequent than the number of times you’ll let out a breath of exhaustion from the Thanksgiving meal (and seconds) you’ll soon eat. Even when you think you know what’s up, just like your stomach thinking it’s had enough food on Thanksgiving, Rian serves up more intrigue, just like your grandmother coming in with a pecan pie on top of everything else you’ve eaten. All of a sudden, you’re ready to devour it. 

Leading the cast of Knives Out is Daniel Craig as Detective Blanc, who has a devilish amount of fun in this role. People might only liken Daniel Craig to the role of Agent 007, but he’s even better in comedic roles like this one and in 2017’s Logan Lucky. In fact, I would be game to see spin-off movies centering around Craig’s character here. Chris Evans is splendid as the black sheep of the family (and grandson of Harlan Thrombey); it’s great seeing him in a role that’s almost the complete opposite of America’s favorite star-spangled hero. Other well-known actors turn in great performances, including the always reliable Michael Shannon, up-and-comer Lakeith Stanfield, the overlooked Toni Collette, and sweet as apple pie Don Jonson. But the real standout of Knives Out is Ana de Arma, who plays the nurse and care taker of Harlan Thrombey. Surely after Knives Out, her status in Hollywood will catapult (if it hasn’t already).  

With Knives Out, Rian Johnson proves that his writing and directing skills are as sharp as ever since his directorial debut in 2005 with Brick. It’s unfortunate that Rian has been the subject of criticism and ridicule from fanboys over the past two years since delivering the best blockbuster of 2017. However, it did in part inspire Rian to come up with Knives Out, which incorporates the use of technology and angry people in general. In the end, it’s Rian’s rules and Rian’s house when it comes to making the calls on his films, which kudos to studios for letting him have it his way. And Knives Out is another feast for audiences looking for something to hit the sweet spot. 

Rating: 4.5/5