Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera
Directed by Rian Johnson
Harlan Thrombey is the top murder mystery author in the world. He’s fabulously wealthy, internationally famous, and surrounded by family. He seems to have everything…until he dies.
While Thrombey’s death initially looks like a suicide, famous private investigator Benoit Blanc believes it to be something more sinister. He suspects one of the family members killed the Thrombey patriarch. Could it be the controlling daughter Linda? Or the financially destitute daughter-in-law Joni? Maybe it’s the estranged grandson Ransom or the business manager son Walt? All are suspect as Benoit begins his investigation.
However, Benoit begins his interviews missing one key piece of information – who anonymously hired him to investigate the case in the first place?
While Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a controversial film for many fans, I enjoyed it because Rian Johnson constantly had the characters zig when I expected them to zag. Johnson makes a similarly unexpected turn of his own by following up the space opera with an Agatha Christie-like murder mystery, and it’s a pleasant surprise. Knives Out isn’t a sequel or remake of 1985’s Clue, but it’s definitely cut from the same cloth. Both feature incredible casts, both have unexpected twists and turns, and both are a lot of fun to watch. It is quite apparent both casts had a lot of fun making the movies and that joy is apparent on-screen in Knives Out.
Most people are going to walk out of the theater remembering Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc. It’s not hard to imagine Craig having a big grin on his face after every take because he seems to be having a great time with this role. Blanc has a Southern drawl that’s entirely out of place in the Northeast setting. It’s frequently hard to tell if Blanc is the next Sherlock Holmes or a Holmes wanna-be. Craig is amusing every moment he’s on the screen and whenever he’s paired with one of the other cast members, the end result is a fun mix of personalities that you want to see more of. Personally, I’d love to see more Benoit Blanc mysteries in the future.
While Daniel Craig steals much of the spotlight, Ana de Armas is equally noteworthy as the nurse Marta Cabrera. I thought this was the first time I had seen Armas on the big screen, but I had forgotten her role as the hologram Joi in Blade Runner 2049. Armas is able to make a remarkable transformation from an A.I. love interest to a nurse caught between Blanc and the family of suspects in Knives Out. She is funny, sympathetic, and a character the audience quickly falls in love with and roots for. Her versatility as an actress is going to be fun to watch in the future.
Chris Evans also stands out as Ransom Drysdale. While we’ve known him as Captain America the last few years, it’s easy to forget all of his past comedic roles before the Marvel era. Evans returns to those comedic roots as Ransom, a character that relishes provoking his high-strung family. Chris Evans isn’t around for the first half of the movie, but the moment he shows up Knives Out has new life breathed into the story.
The rest of the cast is superb as well. Jamie Lee Curtis is amusing as Linda Drysdale. She’s the Type-A, controlling sibling that every family has. Her polar opposite is Toni Collette as Joni Thrombey. Collette is hilarious as the air-headed, New Age, valley girl that is a leech upon the family. Don Johnson also continues his career renaissance as Richard Drysdale. He’s racist, loud spoken, and like the rest of the Thrombey family, he has a few secrets of his own. Michael Shannon is also fun to watch as Walt Thrombey. You don’t typically think of Shannon as a comedic actor, but he generates a lot of laughs of his own in Knives Out.
What’s remarkable about the movie is how every single character on the screen gets at least one moment to shine. From the maid to the investigating police to the 90-year-old grandmother, everyone generates a chuckle at one point or another. And with a cast this large and this stellar, that’s a great testament to Rian Johnson’s writing and directing.
What Didn’t Work:
I enjoyed Knives Out quite a bit, so anything I mention here is merely a nitpick.
While the film has a lot of action, laughs, and twists, there are also a few slow spots that drag down the pacing. I also would have liked to have seen a few more of the characters paired together just to see how they played off of each other. A few of the cast members are also barely used. While they do have at least one noteworthy moment, I felt like Katherine Langford as Meg Thrombey, Jaeden Martell as Jacob Thrombey, and Riki Lindhome as Donna Thrombey were all underutilized. It makes you wonder if some deleted scenes featuring them are somewhere on the cutting room floor.
The Bottom Line:
If you want a fun murder mystery and you are a fan of Clue, investigate Knives Out on the big screen over the holiday. The performances alone are worth the price of admission.
Knives Out opens Wednesday, November 27!