“Knives Out” Review (Spoiler Free)

Following the release of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, and its immense fan backlash (much of which went way too far), Rian Johnson took a step back from large franchise filmmaking, and instead embarked on writing and directing an original project far better than anything he could ever do with the constraints of a major studio.  What resulted is arguably his best film to date, Knives Out!

Good Old Fashioned Whoddunnit
Drawing inspiration from the classic writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, Johnson opens his film with the death of famed mystery author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer).

Initially, he appears to have died by suicide, but the police suspect that there may have been foul play.  Following the funeral, Liutenant Detective Elliot (LaKeith Stanfield) and a private investigator Benoi Blanc (Daniel Craig) gather the family members for questioning, as they try to piece together exactly what happened.

Christopher Plummer gives yet another performance full of vitality, which is amazing given his age (89). He’s had quite a career and doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of retiring.

What follows is a series of interviews that range from hilariously awkward to enlightening.  With these intercut scenes, the film successfully makes the audience feel the decades of tension and hostility that this family has endured.  It’s honestly quite difficult to elaborate any more without giving away spoilers.

Perhaps the best way to describe it would be that the film reveals pieces of information throughout, and by the halfway point, we think we have it all figured out, but boy are we wrong?  It’s truly been a long time since a film was able to navigate this many twists and turns, while having everything still add up and make sense at the end.

In his ultimate homage to Agatha Christie, Rian Johnson described Daniel Craig’s character as the “American Hercule Poirot”, and even gave him a French name as well (yes, Poirot was actually Belgian in the source novels, but his name if French).

Best Ensemble in History?
As brilliant as the numerous plot twists are however, the true shining achievement of Knives Out lies in its cast.  It boasts great performances from Christopher Plummer, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtin, Daniel Craig, LeKeith Stanfield, Katherine Longford, Don Johnson, Chris Evans, Riki Lindhome, Michael Shannon, Jaeden Martell, Toni Collette, and even a brief appearance by Frank Oz (in his first live action role in 25 years).

Fresh off of his 8 year tenure as Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Chris Evans clearly had a blast getting to play a complete asshole. It’s the perfect antithesis for him after portraying the morally righteous Avenger for so many years!

What’s most impressive about this vastly unique cast is that there’s not a single weak link among them!  There are some who certainly get more screen time and dialogue than others, but even the characters who aren’t feature quite as much feel fully fleshed out.  Rian Johnson certainly put in the extra work to gives us memorable and interesting characters, and it only seeks to serve the final product.

All the while, the family’s bickering both demonstrates just how dysfunctional they are, while also addressing some relevant issues that we face today.  Perhaps Thanksgiving is the best time for this film to have been released, as watching certain family members ramble on will conjure up memories of our own family members doing the same thing at Thanksgiving dinner!

If you thought your family was dysfunctional, you’ve got nothing on them!

Knives Out, a callback to a subgenre long since forgotten with unforgettable characters, brilliantly sharp writing, a hilariously dark sense of humor, and just enough heart at its core to make it all worth it.

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