- Written and Directed by Rian Johnson
- September 7, 2019 (TIFF) / November 27, 2019 (US)
A private detective is drawn into a suicide investigation and begins to uncover the secrets of a dysfunctional family.
Knives Out came to my attention with a great deal of hoopla. Though after Johnson’s turn in the Star Wars universe I could not imagine it was equal to the hype. Looper was good but Last Jedi was a real turd. And I say that with the caveat that even the worst Star Wars is better than 99% of what is out there. How do you bungle something as easy as Star Wars? I was left with the feeling he was a director that could only get it right once and so there was some hesitancy here on my part to watch it.
One issue it does have is by the midpoint of the film it feels as if you know what happened. It is at that point it feels like a two-hour episode of an 80s mystery series. Often in mystery shows of the era the audience knew the answers before the first or second commercial break and you are watching to see how the central sleuth figures it out. My interest began to wane, and I gave thought to calling it a day on Knives Out.
The twist at the end that reframes everything feels like a bit much and overly convoluted even in a film whose gimmick is heavy complexity and interconnectivity of things. It comes off as a last minute save for a particular character to give them a solid happily ever after rather than leave them just okay.
The tagline is that any one of them could have done it and they should have run with that. It looked like this could have been one of those mysteries where everyone is put on an equal footing before being gathered together in the end before the sleuth eliminates them one by one until outing the final suspect.
In Knives Out there is some heavy-handed commentary concerning immigration and the government’s handling any of it at the time. It’s better than some from the era but not particularly great. Message movies are fine but doing it without being obvious is a lost art these days.
This is a quirky comedy mystery with a lot of names in the cast. Daniel Craig stars as private detective Benoit Blanc who gets pulled into the investigation after receiving a mysterious package. The great Christopher Plummer is elderly best-selling crime novelist Harlan Thrombey whose death Blanc is investigating. Ana de Armas is Harlan’s nurse Marta Cabrera. Chris Evans is the arrogant Hugh Ransom Drysdale. Jamie Lee Curtis is Harlan’s oldest daughter Linda Drysdale. Don Johnson plays Linda’s husband Richard. Michael Shannon is Harlan’s youngest son and manager of his publishing company Walt. Toni Collette is Joni, the widow of Harlan’s deceased son Neil. Lakeith Stanfield is police Det. Lieutenant Elliott.
Knives Out is a good film. It doesn’t absolve Johnson of the sins of The Last Jedi but what it does show is that Johnson can turn in a good film when it is own material. I give Johnson credit for how he pieces together the disparate narratives of the characters. As you watch you do get a good idea of how things happened from the different perspectives and what they have seen.
Despite some heavy-handed commentary that feels forced at times, Knives Out is not a bad film. I am not sure about rewatchability, but you won’t feel disappointed on a first time watch.