Film Review: Knives Out

I’ve recently got into reading Agatha Christie books, and so this film, which feels inspired by her whodunnit style was right up my alley. An all star cast, a plethora of suspects, a plot rammed to the rafters with twists and turns and a posturing, self assured detective are all in the mix, but the movie is more than a homage, with writer-director Rian Johnson crafting a deliciously convoluted and tricksy tale with a ridiculously funny and clever script.

The movie starts with the discovery of the body of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a hugely successful crime novelist. Harlan’s throat has been slit and his family gather in the aftermath, believing, as the police do, that it was suicide. The police reunite the players and also present is Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a celebrated detective known as “the last of the gentleman sleuths”. Benoit has been hired by an unnamed party and believes there is more to Harlan’s death.

The family have secrets and conflicts, and Lt Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield), guided by Blanc, gets them to go through the events prior to the death at Harlan’s 85th birthday gathering. Blanc’s prodding and baiting gets them to think of their clashes and arguments, but they cover their tracks. Blanc however has an advantage, he can talk to Harlan’s nurse Marta (Ana De Armas) who has a condition whereby lying makes her vomit, making her appear the most reliable witness, but is she holding some things back?

What unfolds is an entertaining yarn filled with darkly comic moments alongside farcical elements. The plot which spins off in an unexpected direction and includes plenty of clever touches and fast switches keeps you guessing. So to does the handling of Blanc, as Johnson ensures we’re never entirely sure how much the sleuth knows or how smart he is. Is he putting it on, more bluster than skill? Or is he actually as clever as he seems to think he is?

Blanc is hugely entertaining with Daniel Craig delivering a massively charismatic and comedic performance. His drawling, deep South accent is a joy and I left the cinema hoping that Johnson can deliver a few more Blanc mysteries. Craig is a magnetic presence at the heart of the movie, his smug swagger oddly engaging and the way he gets under the skin of the other characters is a delight.

He gets a good foil in De Arnas’ Marta, who like the audience is never entirely sure how good the detective is. Marta is kindhearted and nervous, and probably the film’s actual hero, the regular person caught up in this tangled web of privilege and greed. There’s a delightful running gag where all of the Thrombey clan name a different South American country as her homeland, a sign of their indifference towards “the help”, that Marta suffers quietly and with dignity. Of course, she’s also got skeletons in her closet and her condition is a nice and funny addition.

The cast is great across the board especially Chris Evans as a cocky trust fund douche, Christopher Plummer as the eccentric victim and Don Johnson as his son-in-law, giving a performance of humour and charm. I’m glad Johnson is having a comeback in recent years and I’d love to see more of him.

Jamie Lee Curtis and Toni Collette are on great form too and the film is littered with laugh out loud moments as the dysfunctional family interact and squabble.

An utter delight of a film, which captivated me throughout and delivers an avalanche of laughs. It plays with the whodunnit tropes while still being a compelling and intelligent story in its own right. A marvellous movie.

Right up there on my films of the year list.

Verdict: 10/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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