Twists, turns, red-herrings and a mystery most foul await in Rian Johnson’s genius new detective story Knives Out and this one will completely have you spun up in its compelling and clever narrative, making for one of the most intriguing and exciting pieces of cinema to be released all year.
Renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.
When given carte blanche to work on his original projects, director Rian Johnson is an artist who always strikes gold. And Knives Out is another genius piece of cinema from the master filmmaker and here he takes his audience for a spin. Telling the story of the death of famed crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who dies under mysterious circumstances, in a situation that could have been directly inspired by one of his own works. It soon becomes clear that this death has more to it, and with debonair detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) on the case, soon things heat up. Constructed with multiple character arcs and interweaving narratives, Johnson creates a story that goes completely from A to Z and trust me when I say you never see what’s around the corner.
Stepping into center screen in Knives Out is the always capable Daniel Craig and here he arrives on the scene as the debonair private detective Benoit Blanc. Described as ‘the last of the gentlemen sleuths’, Blanc is a man who can see ten steps ahead at every moment, and whose detection of the truth, and ability to withstand misdirection is unparalleled. But with this case, he may just have found a mystery which could even give him a challenge.
Craig portrays Blanc as the smartest guy in the room, and for fans expecting some kind of riff on his James Bond persona, well, Blanc is an entirely different character. Craig’s Blanc is a thinker, a man who sits back in the corner and just looks on and studies the environment, he’s interested in detail and the complexities of human motivation and psychology. In all, it’s a character unlike anything Daniel Craig has played before and it’s a masterful performance on behalf of the actor.
Facing Blanc in Knives Out are the extended Thrombey Family. A diabolically lecherous and hideous group of people who are just the worst and whom are grovelling at the vast fortune of their patriarch, Harlan Thrombey. Sparring with Craig is Chris Evans as Hugh Ransom Drysdale, Harlan’s grandson and a completely spoiled, country-club brat, and the absolute prat of this family. Self-centered and smarmy, Evans excels here as the arrogant and smug Ransom and gets to shed his usual good-guy persona for a character who is completely diabolical. He’s a very bad boy, and whenever he appears on the screen, and worms his way into the other characters around him, chaos is sure to ensue. Evans performance is a great change of pace for the actor, and it’s fun to see him completely go in the total opposite direction.
Ransom is one of just a many number of despicable characters that make up the cast of Knives Out and all of them belong to the Thrombey family. Haughty, arrogant, repellent and completely at war with both themselves and those around them, the Thrombey’s are a collection of diabolical characters and they prove to be a stellar cast for this ultimate mystery tale.
There’s Jamie Lee Curtis as the pantsuit wearing tiger mother Linda Drysdale, Don Johnson as her weasley husband Richard Drysdale, and it’s from these two characters that Ransom was spawned. Michael Shannon on the other hand stars as the oafish and pathetic Walt Thrombey, while his wife Donna Thrombey (Riki Lindhome) is a complete new-money upstart and his son Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell) is an alt-right troll who lives to misbehave. Then there’s Toni Collette who portrays self-proclaimed influencer guru and free-loading hippie Joni Thrombey, while her daughter Meg (Katherine Langford), is an outspoken college feminist who for all intensive purposes is a good person, although happy to follow the whims of her family whenever it suits here. Together the Thrombey’s create havoc at every turn and Knives Out is all the better for it.
Stuck in the middle of all of this is Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), a registered nurse and the caregiver and confident to Harlan and who is the most normal, unassuming person within the whole story. But with a few twists along the way Marta, soon finds herself in terrible danger, along with being under the watchful gaze of Detective Beniot Blanc himself. For de Armas, the role of Marta is an incredibly rich character for her to dive into, and the role and her situation within the narrative leads to some very rewarding moments for her as an actor. de Armas also spends a lot of time on screen besides Daniel Craig’s calculating private eye, and it’s fun to watch each of them interact, especially as the stakes build and the clock winds down as to who was responsible for the death of Harlan Thrombey.
Finally rounding out this incredible cast is the legendary Christopher Plummer who at age 89 is still going strong and brings a strong sense of gravitas to the role of master crime writer Harlan Thrombey. Cantankerous and hard-nosed, Plummer’s portrayal of Thrombey at first comes off as extremely stern and strict, but just like everything in this film, appearances aren’t all what they appear to be. Plummer gives Knives Out its soul and whenever you see him appear on screen he is sure to capture your attention with a strong sense of authority and world-weariness. It’s a treat to see Plummer perform with such a complex and multi-layered character and his presence in the film is a real vindication to Rian Johnson’s talent.
When it comes to his own entirely focused directorial works, Rian Johnson likes to delve in and dissect apart a genre to build something new. Just like he did with Brick, The Brothers Bloom and Looper, Johnson crafts something original here in Knives Out and he completely turns the detective genre on its head. His film is both a homage and deconstruction of the detective genre, and he seeks to unpack it to deliver a new viewing experience to his audience. While he plays with the usual tropes of a debonair detective, intriguing murder and a wild and eclectic cast of characters, Johnson really turns things up a notch and the result is a film that is completely different and unique within the realm of the detective genre and it will hold the attention of its audience and is sure to keep them on edge the whole time.
From beginning to end, Knives Out is sure to grip your attention and deliver some serious twists. It’s a clever, calculating piece of cinema and for those wanting something that will make them think, well, they’ll certainly find it here, and it’s certain to keep audience hooked right to the very end.
Image: Studio Canal