I haven’t seen a movie in quite some time that’s felt like it was made for me more than Knives Out. I’m a total sucker for a good murder mystery and with its incredible ensemble cast as well as the delightfully crude humor and unique style, I was hook, line, and sinker for whatever writer/director Rian Johnson had in store. Also, this has to be said, even as someone who hates The Last Jedi, there’s no denying that Johnson is a unique voice in the film industry that’s ready to be heard and shouldn’t be ostracized simply because of fan dispute over one film he made. In some ways, I’m actually happier with what Last Jedi was because if it all lead to the incredibly fun and well-made film that Knives Out is, then it was totally worth it.
The “Whodunit” mystery genre was essentially a thing of the past, but Johnson completely revives and revitalizes it with Knives Out. It’s the kind of film so carefully crafted and filled with vivid detail that if I give away too much story, it would take away from the experience. So, all I will say is this: it follows a charming and daring private investigator (Daniel Craig) that’s mysteriously called in to figure out the truth behind the death of wealthy patriarch (Christopher Plummer) and the rest of his competitive and competitive family. I know it’s a little vague, but, like I said before, Johnson puts such incredible detail in the story and characters that seeing it all unfold and come together is part of the fun.
A true staple to a great murder-mystery is how it constantly pulls the rug out from under you and constantly engages you with each new piece of information. Johnson does this in spades as he does an excellent job using visual, auditory, and dialogue details to make viewers almost want to pull out their own notepad to try to solve the crime themselves. I could even hear faint whispers and gasps from other people in my theater as a new layer was peeled on what was previously thought to be true or a new clue that’s uncovered. Johnson does this right from the start with some unconventional storytelling that I actually thought was risky at first but ends up being immensely satisfying and plays a big part in him revitalizing the Whodunit.
In some ways, it almost seems as if everything is solved way before the climax of the film, but like any good mystery, there’s that burning thought in the back your head that the answer presented is just too good to be true. Things like this and some of the other ways Johnson plays with viewers’ expectations and perceptions are what make Knives Out such an enthralling experience and it all stems back to how he characterizes everyone. One of my favorite aspects of the entire film is Marta (Ana de Armas) because of how Johnson makes her the only character that’s truly reliable with how she regurgitates the truth. She gives viewers a place to start in solving the entangled mystery and offers viewers someone to fall back outside of Inspector Benoit Blanc, who is devilishly played by Craig and whose southern drawl and obsessive theories about donut holes will constantly keep viewers laughing.
Really, all of the performances are perfect, and everyone brings out the great humor and shady personality that’s felt throughout the entire Thrombey family. While they can easily have nice conversations with one another and act like a loving family, each member has plenty of skeletons in their closets and secrets that are just waiting to come out. Their secret feelings about one another and even the way they talk politics creates an underlying tension that lets the knives come out. Everyone brings out their character’s own distinct personality and humor flawlessly with de Armas and Chris Evans being the standouts.
Like I said before, Marta is one of the most reliable characters, as well as one of my favorites, and it’s because de Armas’s performance reflects this every step of the way. Evans also puts in a strong performance that breaks away from the squeaky-clean persona he’s gained from playing Captain America for the last decade and creates a delightfully fun new look for him as Ransom. You’ll love him, loathe him, and find new appreciation for Evans as an actor as he doesn’t even have to do a whole lot in the film for you to instantly wonder about his part in the entire thing.
Even Plummer’s performance is great, and Johnson builds his presence well, even without him being there, with the relationships he has with everyone and the detailed environment. Like any good detective, viewers will be sucked into every detail and word that comes out of everyone’s mouths and even with Plummer’s Harlan not being around to give his thoughts on things, everyone else essentially lets his story come out and it’s a great way to delve into the family so that viewers can make judgments on everyone. Not to mention, Johnson makes Harlan’s house almost a character within itself, as it’s filled with parts of Harlan’s mystery books and it adds new elements to the storytelling that make a re-watch incredibly enriching.
After seeing Knives Out, all I can say is that we need more films like this. It’s totally original, full of an immense amount of intelligent wit, and hooks viewers in a way that most films aren’t able to do. When you can say that someone can revitalize a genre through an excellent script and strong storytelling and character building, it’s a true testament to the kind of ambition and love for filmmaking that Johnson has. Knives Out delivers the kind of brilliance that will make audiences want to stand up and cheer and it’s so strong that I’ll be a big supporter in Johnson receiving awards nods for the spectacular screenplay he’s delivered here.