Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Movie Review: "Knives Out" (2019)

Director: Rian Johnson
Year: 2019
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

When Harlan Thrombey, the wealthy patriarch of the Thrombey clan, is found dead, the police assume he committed suicide, but eccentric detective Benoit Blanc, who has been hired by an unknown party, believes there's more to this case than meets the eye.

Christopher Plummer and Jamie Lee Curtis in "Knives Out"
"The guy practically lives in a Clue board." (Image Source)
We love a good whodunit! Before Rian Johnson became widely known as the director of "Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi," he was known for making the films like "Brick," a neo-noir indie favorite, the con-artist comedy "The Brothers Bloom," and the sci-fi crime drama "Looper." Johnson makes a triumphant return with his latest twisty-turny movie "Knives Out," which he wrote and directed. This film tells the story of the Thrombeys and all of their extended family members. On the night of his birthday party, acclaimed mystery novelist and patriarch of the Thrombey family, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), is found dead in his room. The police investigating the matter believe that all evidence points to the fact that Harlan killed himself. The rest of the Thrombey family, including Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her husband Richard (Don Johnson), Walt (Michael Shannon) and his wife Donna (Riki Lindhome) and their racist son Jacob (Jaeden Martell), Joni (Toni Collette) and her college-aged daughter Meg (Katherine Langford), and Ransom (Chris Evans), could seemingly care less. All they are worried about is what Harlan left them (or didn't leave them) in his will. The only person who seems upset about Harlan's passing is Marta (Ana de Armas), Harlan's caretaker and friend. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a renowned but eccentric detective who has been hired by an unknown party, believes there is more to this case than suicide. Blanc believes foul play may be involved, and as it turns out, many of the members of House Thrombley had reasons to want him dead.
Lakeith Stanfield, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, and Daniel Craig star in "Knives Out" (2019)
"I don't trust this guy in the tweed suit." (Image Source)
"Knives Out" is one of the best murder mysteries we've seen in a long time. Though this is not our first rodeo with material like this, Rian Johnson finds a way to make it feel fresh, suspenseful, quick-moving, and pertinent. It really is the complete package: it is expertly directed, modern, riotously funny, and sharply written, a clever flick that boasts marvelous performances from every single member of its star-studded cast.

Christopher Plummer was the perfect choice to play a prosperous, aging patriarch with motives, secrets to hide, and truths to tell. Jamie Lee Curtis is as charismatic and iconic as ever as Linda, the eldest of the Thrombey children. Michael "one of the greatest living actors©" Shannon is intimidating and just the right amount of smarmy and suspicious as Walt, who seemingly has the most to gain after his father dies. Toni Collette is perfection as Joni, a bouncy lifestyle influencer and health and wellness goddess who has immense amounts of passion, drive, and the attention span of a gnat. Ana de Armas is excellent as Marta, a humble caregiver who is good at her job but gets caught up in a precarious, dramatic position once Harlan passes away. Chris Evans is brilliant as Ransom, a spoiled, privileged, snot-nosed-but-charming brat who is used to having everything handed to him. While all of these performances are worthy ones, it is Daniel effing Craig who shines above the rest and completely steals the show as the utterly hilarious Benoit Blanc. Craig has made a career out of playing bad guys, businessmen, explorers, lovers, and of course, the hard-nosed version James Bond, but lately, he has been making a real show of himself in comedies, of all places. Between "Logan Lucky" and "Knives Out," he has been legitimately funnier than some strictly comedic actors! In both films, he gets to ham it up with a Southern accent with a great degree of success.

Of course, these performances probably wouldn't be as good as they are without Johnson's crafty, perceptive script and keen direction. You never really know what's what. He lulls the audience into a false sense of complacency and then does a 180 and keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. All of the turns and quips and revelations are served with a heaping (but not overbearing or forced) helping of topical, relevant commentary about our present-day problems. Johnson subtly confronts some of America's most significant, most festering issues in ways we didn't expect.

Also, whoever chose and made the costumes for this film (Jenny Eagan, you genius!) should get an Oscar because good-god-damn it is breathtakingly well styled.
Rian Johnson's new movie Knives Out
"Everyone can lie...well, almost everyone." (Image Source)
Please see "Knives Out" as soon as you can. It's one of our favorite comedies of the year. It kept us engaged and laughing from start to finish. It doesn't entirely rely on surprising the audience, and even if you figure out "whodunit" along the way, Rian Johnson makes the journey to its conclusion a fun, scandalous ride. It is so well executed in almost every way that it's sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.8/10
RT Rating: 97%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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