‘Knives Out’ // Film Review: Rian Johnson’s Fresh Take On The Whodunnit Genre

Nothing says bringing families together than sitting down to watch a wealthy family get at each other’s throats in figuring out how to handle the fact someone might be a murderer. Sounds fun, right? At least that’s what to expect from Rian Johnson’s latest Knives Out, which includes what’s needed to what makes this film a modern twist on a whodunnit.

What’s the Story: Renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) invited his extended but dysfunctional family to his mansion to celebrate his 85th birthday. Not everything turns out well when he was found dead the next day. Not sure how it happened, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is enlisted to investigate to uncover the truth behind the patriarch’s death and wonders if it’s truly a suicide or someone went out of the way to kill him.

Daniel Craig, Noah Segan, and LaKeith Stanfield in Knives Out (2019)

Knives Out was one of my most anticipated movies for the rest of the year based solely on Johnson behind the camera and story. There’s always a chance that anything he comes out with will surely be amazing, from Looper and most recently Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Though I’m not one of those who religiously bashes him for ruining the franchise, because he didn’t and we should all grow up; it was a good idea for him to take it back to a smaller scale and give us a murder mystery. Not a lot of them made an impressive impact in Hollywood in a long time that most people remember. For instance, we can categorize the remake of Murder on the Orient Express as underwhelming. It was exciting to learn that an original plot for the genre has major potential to be worth the hype. As I was lucky enough to buy a ticket to see an early screening of it, I tip my hat to Mr. Johnson for making Knives Out a blast.

As one does, crafting a crime comedy of sorts, he took a lot of inspiration from Agatha Christie novels and movie adaptations of her work, along with probably watched the guilty pleasure mystery of them all Clue and made it his own without making it a joke. The thing that Johnson does a great job at establishing upfront is that we, the audience, are trying to guess what happened and who was corrupt of killing Harlan. Most of the scenes are just characters talking, and you’re easily investing with what’s being said to give us connections of our own. And then the presence of his smart screenplay is filled some great lines of dialogue that’s equally funny and times of easing in thinking something of tension might build-up.

Any time where it needed to include that black comedy took me by surprise when it got me to laugh on a lot of occasions, even the audience I saw it with had a good time with most of the jokes.

Craig’s performance as Detective Blanc was probably meant to be over-the-top while spotting a Southern accent to carry through the entire film, but he pulled it off without batting an eye. Kind of seems like he’s using the same accent from when it was in Logan Lucky a couple of years back. He’s the Hercule Poirot of this universe, and this was such a fun role that he can play that shouldn’t be taken seriously. Overall, I feel this is one of his best roles outside Bond. Even after I left the theater, I wanted to talk like him for an entire week.

But besides Craig, he’s also a part of the best ensemble cast of the year to know. It must have been hard getting all these talented people involved. There’s Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and, of course, Plummer. All of whom were outstanding for definitely acting like a dysfunctional family that turns on each other in figuring out everything after this tragedy-stricken upon them. They at least had one moment to shine.

For me, the two MVPs that kept my attention throughout were Evans and de Armas, respectively. I knew from the first trailer that Evans, who plays the spoiled Ransom Drysdale, would be the funniest character out of everybody, and he made me smile whenever he was a witty retort to comment on. Then you have de Armas, playing Harlan’s caretaker Marta, who has a lot more screen time than I thought she had was great also, and it’s a role you ultimately care about when this whole situation is becoming out of hand.

With any film revolving around a mystery and keeping you in suspense, it does a great job at managing us to keep you guessing until the end, and its take on the genre is pretty different from what one would expect. It’s all about the who and why elements of a story revolving around a mystery that needed to hit the mark. The audience is in Benoit’s position where we are also ruling out suspects and understanding what happened from their perspectives to see if what they’re saying is true or not. The fact it ended up being unpredictable gives it much more advantage. Spoiling nothing, I felt like the first two acts gave me an idea about how it will wrap up, but then throws in something else, making sense when it was over.

Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, K Callan, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Riki Lindhome, Ana de Armas, Jaeden Martell, and Katherine Langford in Knives Out (2019)

From a technical level, this was well-paced for a two-hour-long black comedy that didn’t feel long, Nathan Johnson’s score fitted the tone throughout the film, the editing was sharp, especially a sequence where Shannon, Johnson, and Lee Curtis’ characters are being interrogated that was nearly seamless, and the production design of the mansion has enough to look around the background to feel the vibe of the scenes.

If there were any problems that come to mind, I did kind of expected this to be a little more clever than from what I was originally thinking it would be. Besides that, this huge ensemble is huge, but I felt like Langford and Martell didn’t have a lot to work with. Aside from those personal issues, this is still fantastic.

By the end of Knives Out, it’s proof that a director like Johnson will never make a disappointing film in my eyes. Made for those who love reading novels about solving mysteries and being surprised will be pleased with brilliance. Believe me when I say he crafted a well-told modern take on a whodunit mystery able to be unpredictable, funny, and just plain entertaining. Re-watching it later on and knowing the outcome might ruin the fun, but there’s just a lot to enjoy about one of the best movies 2019 offers.

Grade: A-

4 thoughts on “‘Knives Out’ // Film Review: Rian Johnson’s Fresh Take On The Whodunnit Genre

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