Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is a wonderfully crafted film that - without a shadow of doubt - utterly exceeded my expectations. It is well paced, masterfully written, and acted to perfection by an absolutely star-studded cast. Following Johnson’s controversial entry into the Star Wars saga, I expect Knives Out to be far more unanimous in its reception, you could simply feel in the cinema that the film was set to be an instant classic.
The premise of the film is one with an air of familiarity. Renowned private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is called in to investigate the dramatic suicide of Harland Thrombey (Christopher Plumber), an eclectic multi-millionaire crime novelist and patriarch of the dysfunctional Thrombey family. This family forms the core focus of the plot, as Blanc looks to uncover whether Thrombey was in fact murdered, and if so, which family member was to blame. Whilst the premise is familiar and relatively simple, the plot unfolds in a way that is totally unexpected, and the constant twists and turns is sure to keep viewers on their toes right up to the climax of the film.
One of the first things to strike me about this film is how brilliantly funny it is. This is but one of the few ways in which my expectations were subverted; the humour was by far the biggest surprise. The cast really accentuated this, bringing the absolute most of an already bitingly funny script and elevating Knives Out to another level. Particular comedic highlights were Daniel Craig in the role of the Detective Blanc, Evan’s despicably arrogant and hilariously antagonistic performance as Ransom Thrombey, and Toni Collette’s brilliant performance as Harland’s daughter in law. However, these are simply a few highlights r from a cast that all put in incredibly convincing and comedic performances. This is further complemented by Johnson’s directing style, who demonstrates a comedic touch that was barely found in his previous hits Looper and The Last Jedi. The fast paced editing and visual cues create some of the funniest moments in the film, and Rian Johnson can really take a lot of the credit for the success of this film.
The pacing and writing of this film is another of its core strengths. The plot takes an unexpected turn early on which really sends the film in a different direction - one that is welcome and really pushes the viewer out of their comfort zone. As I mentioned before, this makes the final reveal that bit more satisfying. You realise, as the mystery unfurls before you, that it’s the outcome you should’ve expected all along, but never did. This is as much thanks to the fast paced opening 20 minutes however, which do a fantastic job setting up the film. The movie takes absolutely no time getting going, introducing the concept, characters, setting, and the mystery all in an incredibly efficient and entertaining way. This really frees up the rest of the plot for Johnson to play around and have fun, and you can really tell he did. After what sounds like an arduous and constricting time under the watchful eye of Disney and Kathleen Kennedy you could tell the creative control he held on this film brought out the best in Johnson. Regardless of your thoughts on The Last Jedi, good or bad, you can’t deny that this is a film which just feels so much more fun and full of life.
In a cast and crew of star-studded names however, to me it was Ana de Armas’ performance as Marta Cabrera that really held the film together. Despite her supporting role in Blade Runner 2049 she is still a relatively unknown name, and so she took a real back seat in the marketing to the rest of the incredible cast of this film. Armas’ performance however as the sympathetic nurse to the last Harland Thrombey is the emotional core of the film that ties everything together. She may not have the funniest moments, but she plays the straight man in so many scenes to perfection, allowing the more grandiose and large performances of others to play off of her more understated role. The thing about a murder mystery however is that you can make it as funny as you desire, as elaborate a reveal as you want, but this only matters if you care about the characters at the heart of the plot. This to me is why Ana de Armas’ role in the film is vital, Marta Cabrera is the most sympathetic character in the film, and really is the audiences gateway and viewpoint into the Thrombey family. Others will get the plaudits, but her performance holds the film together.
Knives Out is without doubt Johnson’s best film to date, and definitely my favourite film of the year so far. Johnson’s previous films have created a real division amongst film fans. I personally am a big fan of Looper and The Last Jedi but you can understand how some people can feel alienated by each of them. Knives Out, however, I expect to be universal in it’s enjoyment. It’s funny, the characters are well formed and brilliantly realised by one of the best casts I’ve ever seen brought together on one film, and did I mention how funny it is? I would recommend anyone and everyone go see this film - it’s one you cannot miss.
Knives Out will be released in the US on 27 November and in the UK on 29 November