Knives Out movie review: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans give us a whodunnit Agatha Christie would be proud of
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jaime Lee Curtis, Toni Collete
Half an hour into Knives Out, you wonder who is having the most fun –writer-director Rian Johnson who recently took a trip to a galaxy far far away and landed at a stately mansion in the suburbs with a dozen Hollywood aces at his disposal, or Daniel Craig’s gentlemanly sleuth who is immensely excited about wearing a Southern accent thicker than his tweed overcoat.
Or, is it us? Out there with a hundred others; laughing and wincing in a dark theatre, brought together by our collective ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ with every big reveal, every step towards the missing piece of the puzzle. Let’s just say, we are all winners here.
Watch the trailer for Knives Out:
With Knives Out, Johnson goes much smaller in scale since his last outing—the billion dollar mammoth known as Star Wars: The Last Jedi. However, one look at the top billed cast of Knives Out could make you reconsider your definition of small scale. Craig plays sassy sleuth Benoit Blanc, a straight descendent of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, minus the ‘stache or the Belgian accent. And what good is a pop culture detective without a fake accent and a name that reminds you of fancy stationery!
We join Benoit on a murder investigation of an octogenarian writer (played by Christopher Plummer) who is found with his throat slit, on the night of his birthday. His entire family—including selfish daughters, parasitic sons and Nazi grandkids played by Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Chris Evans and others -- is rounded up for investigation at their eerie and nauseatingly excessive mansion, with a game of Clue definitely used as inspiration for set design.
As the investigation takes off, we are also introduced to Martha, the immigrant caregiver from ‘Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil’ (none of her masters can seem to, or frankly, care to remember), played by Ana de Armas. She becomes our eyes and the subject of our sympathy as she navigates through her master’s death, the peril it poses to her, and not to mention, the horrible family straight out of one of the more rabid episodes of Succession.
The greedy, malicious family members maybe two-dimensional but Johnson never lets things get boring or unfunny. Shiny and pristine on the exterior, these are also the people hiding illicit affairs and a lust for privileges they do not deserve. They pride themselves as self-made, liberal and woke, but mask their hatred for the deserving under a thin veneer.
From their party chatter about the Mexicans ‘taking over’ America to discussing babies sleeping in cages, over bottomless glasses of champagne, Johnson gives multiple moments for you to point a finger at the rich and privileged and laugh at their hypocrisy. He brings out their ugly and embarrassing sides when destiny gives them just what they deserve and that cathartic moment is met with roaring applause and crackling laughter. After Ready or Not and this, I wonder if I am enjoying watching the rich meet their comeuppance more than I ought to.
As for the whodunnit part of it, there are twists and turns aplenty despite revealing the true identity of the killer from the get-go. One begins to wonder if you can even call it a whodunnit when you pretty much know ‘who has done it’ from the second scene itself. However, there are still faces to unmask, evil intentions to be revealed and the film does it all slowly, steadily and with a tonne of style.
In fact, things get so Agatha Christie at times that you begin to wonder what, if anything, makes this story fit for 2019 and not 1919. Could tiny mentions of the alt-right, Instagram lives, the immigrant crisis and some Converse sneakers make for a smart update to the 21st century? While the charm of anonymous letters, trap windows, mystery ink and prop daggers is not lost but we needed something a little more substantial to connect Poirot with Blanc.
In any case, Knives Out is two hours well spent with a hilarious and just clever enough whodunnit. Think of it as reading a Christie masterpiece. Except you are not sitting with the book under a tree in a lush green English garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon; maybe you are at a vegan cafe on a Friday evening in LA. And you can’t wait to tweet about it once you are done with it.
Follow @htshowbiz for more