‘Knives Out’ is the murder mystery I needed to see and I’m sad I didn’t watch it sooner.
The story starts with the death of Walter Thrombey. After his funeral, his death is ruled a suicide. However private investigator Benoit Blanc believes his death is a murder and sets out to find out what happened and who may or may not be responsible.
Knives Out starts the same way a lot of murder mysteries to…. someone dies and then someone else tries to solve the case. It has the exact same plot as Murder on the Orient Express which was released a few years ago but what makes this movie different from others like it is the clever way the story is told. It’s not trying to mislead you, quite the opposite. The story challenges you to poke holes in the seemingly airtight alibi and it’s a lot of fun which makes the big reveal worth it.
I really don’t have to talk about how much I adore this cast. Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Sheen, Anna de Armas, Chris Evans and Daniel Craig. There was no way the acting wouldn’t be good. When you have these actors in it, it’s a prerequisite. Everyone here brought their A-game and because of that, the movie feels so much better than its counterparts. All the characters have such distinct personalities that when they come together, there is bound to be friction. While they don’t always feel like a family their sweet moments hit harder. That being said, they’re all terrible people and I love it because this kind of story and terrible people is a breeding ground for chaos.
The stand out performances for me are Chris Evans and Daniel Craig. You’re used to seeing the two of them in 2 set roles (Captain America and James Bond respectively) and because of that, seeing them perform outside that mould is refreshing. You actually get to see their range as actors, especially Daniel Craig. Blanc is campy in the best possible way. His southern drawl can sometimes come across as a little forced (not surprised coming from a British person) but it works with the nature and tone of the movie and is even referenced at the end of the movie
This is Rian Johnson’s first movie since Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and I’m happy that he was able to show that he is a good filmmaker because he was heavily roasted for some of his directorial decisions in that movie. (And I still haven’t seen it. One day dear reader.) That is to say that I’m happy he’s released a movie that is seen as good across the board. And I’ll tell you why I say that.
Knives Out is not your typical murder mystery in that the structure of the movie is different from other murder mysteries. Something that is usually reserved for the end happens at the beginning and then you work backwards trying to piece together how the characters got to that point. (SPOILER ALERT!! You find out who committed the crime within the first 30 minutes of the movie). Now that you know that piece of information, you can really sit back and enjoy the movie, as you’re not trying to figure it out. You’re left with 90 minutes and you go wherever the movie takes you. And I think it’s brilliant. And the 90 minutes is a lot more comedic than I thought it would be.
The injection of humour changes the overall tone of the movie but doesn’t compromise the tension. It’s still a murder mystery but its one that makes you laugh along the way but not at the expense of its characters or story. I’m going to compare it to Murder on the Orient Express one more time. The two movies have two very similar plot threads. (A person dies and the super-smart detective has to find out what happened) but where Murder on the Orient Express hypes up Hercule Poirot is hyped up by the story, Benoit Blan is undercut. And because of that, you want to see how he’ll solve the mystery. It makes the film more interesting.
One of my favourite Youtube channels Just Write has a fantastic video the tonal shift that makes this movie worth watching again and again.
This is a good looking movie, and visually, it fits in with movies of its genre even though tonally it does not. Steve Yedin, the cinematographer and Rian Johnson managed to craft shots that let you know what you’re in for without telling you. For example, look at the Thrombery house…
The ominous look makes sense when you look at the subject matter of the movie.
There is also the use of forced perspectives and again it’s the film letting you know what you’re in for without telling you. (I’m not going to talk about it too much or risk spoiling the movie)
The score is probably the one aspect of the film that I’m not going to rave about and not for the reason you think. It isn’t bad, not by any stretch, I actually liked it a lot, however, I don’t remember much about it. I was too focused on what was going on for me to give it my full attention. Maybe when I watch the film a second time, I’ll have more to say. (I’m definitely watching the movie a second time.)
Usually, when it comes to movies of this genre, I watch it once or twice and that’s it because you recognise the story beats and the so-called twist at the end isn’t surprising, but something about this movie makes me want to watch it again and again. It’s fun, witty and chaotic in the best possible way and it’s been a while since I watched a movie that I enjoyed this much. (No joke my internet cut out while I was watching it and I legit screamed.)
It’s clear that Rian Johnson was inspired by classic Agatha Christie murder mysteries and classic mystery thrillers, but he’s managed to breathe life into the genre by doing something different and setting both his film and his filmmaking style apart from others that have come before it.
Originally published at http://www.thecinematicaficionado.com on April 20, 2020.