This whodunit forgets the Agatha Christie cliches, and the clues are ingenious and hilarious.
I attended an advanced screening of “Knives Out” at the Chicago Film Festival, where I met and commended writer/director Rian Johnson (“Looper,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) for his fantastic job on the piece. It looks like an Agatha Christie whodunit, but it actually proves to be more than meets the eye.
Elementary, my dear readers, elementary.
How so? I won’t spoil anything, but I can say this: it doesn’t give false elements to throw the main detective off the trail. In fact, it sort of reminded me a little bit of “Love Crime” with its detailed process of how the killer can get away with murder. Again, it proved me wrong.
We meet famed crime novelist Harlan Thromby (Christopher Plummer), who is found dead by his housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson). And we also meet Detectives Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) and Wagner (Noah Segans) and Private Investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, spoofing a Southern Hercule Poirot), all of whom must interview Thromby’s dysfunctional family.
They consist of Thromby’s eldest daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), her unfaithful husband Richard (Don Johnson), their pompous son Ransom (Chris Evans), Thromby’s youngest son Walt (Michael Shannon), his wife Donna (Riki Lindhome), their politically active son Jacob (Jaeden Martell), Thromby’s widowed daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette), her self-righteous daughter Meg (Katherine Langford), and even the old man’s mother (K Callan). How old is she? No-one knows.
Each of the tribe members have their own goals, ambitions, and deceptions, which get threatened by the patriarch’s decisions. He says: “My mind’s made up” twice.
And whom they consider part of the family is Thromby’s nurse and very dear friend Marta (Ana de Armas). Two things I can say about her: she has a vomiting condition, and her mother has immigrated from Ecuador. That’s all I have to provide for you.
“Knives Out” plays like a comedy, because of how well the death plot is constructed, and how each character is provided with bumbling situations. Ransom says: “Eat sh*t” to his arguing relatives, Richard gives out stereotypes about the help, and Benoit thrives on anything that crosses his path. While we’re interested to know who killed the rich author, we still admired the dark humor emerging from Point A to Point B.
The star-studded cast keep you involved. Craig, Evans, Shannon, Stanfield, Segans, and Plummer are all top notch, but really I must single out De Armas for her portrayal of Marta. She struggles to balance her emotions, especially when she vomits during the interrogation. Maybe, if the public takes it kindly, she’ll be up for Best Supporting Actress at any movie award event. Who Knows?
Kudos to Rian Johnson for providing us a stylish, goofy, wickedly funny, and intricately plotted whodunit, which never exploits the big names because of their iconic roles. Coming on the heels of his last two entries, he is a filmmaker, who is able to take risks, and “Knives Out” is no exception.
This is one of the best films of the year.
In Theaters November 27