Movie Review: Knives Out

“I have eliminated no suspects.”

– Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc

By Cain Dennis

This weekend, I got to go see Rian Johnson’s new film, Knives Out in a special preview screening prior to its forthcoming wide release on November 27th. It isn’t very often that theaters in my area get to show something early like this, and there are some significant releases that never even see theater showings in our area, recently, Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, which I was only able to see by traveling to Indianapolis and Bong Joon Ho’s excellent (or so i’ve heard) Parasite, which I likely will not have a chance to see until it is released on home video.

The story begins when famous mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead the morning after his 85th birthday party. We are then presented insight into each of his family members in a string of interview clips where they are being questioned by law enforcement officers trying to find potential motives. Although early on, these interview scenes are among my favorites in the film, seeing how characters answers compare to that of their family members, and learning about their interactions with each other the night of the party. Seeing their dysfunctional, combative family dynamic unfold is ridiculously entertaining. There are scenes where every one is just yelling at each other, it’s like a giant tug of war where every single person is completely for themselves and even though it’s chaos, it has purpose, and at times, I found it hilarious.

Knives Out is the kind of film that we don’t get to see in theaters very often today, it is a whodunnit, and a very theatrical one at that. Many of the characters, especially Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) and Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette) feel as if they would be at home in a stage play, but it’s not distracting at all, I actually think it’s one of my favorite qualities the movie has to offer. Everything about this movie would fall apart if the ensemble cast wasn’t a perfect fit, and they are. I can’t picture anyone else playing these characters, its an example of perfect casting in almost every aspect. Ana De Armas as Marta Cabrera and Michael Shannon as Walt Thrombey are standouts, and even though he doesn’t have a relatively large role, I really enjoyed seeing LaKeith Stanfield pop up as Lieutenant Elliot. The only cast member I didn’t really like was Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why), I just don’t really buy her performance or dialogue.

The very nature of this movie being reliant on twists and turns in its story makes it a bit difficult to really dig into without risking spoiling important details, and seeing as Knives Out isn’t even in wide release yet, I’m not going to give any of these things away. Some of my complaints with the movie, however, are brought on by some of the reveals and turns the story takes, some things seem a bit too obvious from the information that the movie gives along the way, some “Gotcha!” moments fall maybe just a bit flat in my opinion, while others are satisfying. Even when those moments are underwhelming, the effect that they have on other characters is very well thought out and executed.

Aside from some gripes with the story, I really had a great time watching Knives Out, and if you have any interest in the mystery genre, I don’t think that it will disappoint you. I strongly recommend it. There’s no shortage of compelling characters, and I think that this is destined to become a genre-defining film for modern mysteries. The last sequence of the movie is just great, and the very final shot pays off so well and left me with a huge smile on my face leading into the credits.

I give Knives Out

8/10

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