In the era of Superhero flicks and Heist films, watching a whodunit is like a breath of fresh air; make it one with an ensemble cast, a perfect plot and a twist at the end and you are in for a treat. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out makes its mark because it tests the audience’s ‘little grey cells’ and keeps them engaged just like an Agatha Christie novel. In fact, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that detective Benoit Blanc (created by the writer/director) is an excellent addition to the detective club since it reminds the audience of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple in patches, and can easily be carrying their good work forward in the modern era.
Celebrated novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead soon after his family celebrated his 85th birthday; however, everyone in the house is under suspicion because of the events that happened before the murder. The cops (LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Segan) rule it out as suicide until famous detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) enters the scene and begins investigating it as a murder. His investigation opens a Pandora box that consists of adultery, updated will, ingenious planning, poisoning, arson and a room full of people that would be better off with the old man’s death. The nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) holds the key since she can’t lie and that helps the detective in unraveling the case. Is the very successful daughter (Jamie Lee Curtis), her useless husband (Don Johnson), their awful son (Chris Evans), or Harlan’s youngest son (Michael Shannon) involved or did the old man really commit suicide, watch Knives Out to find the answer.
Each and every actor in the film does justice to their character and keeps the audience engaged, sometimes directing the suspicion to themselves, and sometimes on someone else in the same family. However, the two people who stood out were Daniel Craig playing detective Benoit Blanc for the first (but surely not the last) time and making the character his own. He changes his accent to stand out and manages to do that in scenes that he shared with renowned actors. You can’t miss him in the flick, even if he is in the background sitting on a chair or reading from a paper.
Ana de Armas is the other actor you can’t take your eyes off because her character keeps you engaged; she is shown as the old man’s confidant, making her integral to the investigation. Chris Evans, in his first role post Avengers: Endgame proves that even without a shield and costume, he is a force to reckon with. Despite his limited presence, legendary actor Christopher Plummer steals the show as the man who knew his family too well and would do anything to protect – or discredit – them.
If you are watching this film for a specific actor and his or her surname is not Craig or Evans, then you might not exit the theatre in a good mood. Besides the actors behind James Bond and Captain America, the rest have little to do, including Don Johnson (Miami Vice), Frank Oz (Star Wars), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why), or the multifaceted Michael Shannon who excels playing the bad guy, but here he walks with a cane, and is the youngest in the family. For fans of murder mysteries, the familiar clues might take them back in the 70s and the 80s when TV shows used to tease their mind with whodunits, and sometimes with howcatchems. And then there is the ‘puking’ factor that could have been replaced by anything else like crossing eyes, headache, nose bleed or even a blackout, but not vomit. It came out as an extremely cheap way of detecting lies, especially for a film that has so many stars.
The Verdict 4/5
Knives Out is a film that could either have happened with a wonderful writer-director team or with a writer who could direct; Rian Johnson makes it all the more interesting by seamlessly using satire, mystery, and suspense at the same time. It had everything a mystery buff wishes for – murder before the titles, a famous detective who isn’t taken seriously and a twist in the tale. As a movie, it was far better than Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express because it not only paid tribute to Agatha Christie but was set in the modern times. Yes, there wasn’t much use of the internet or as Chris Evans’ characters say ‘CSI’ but going old-school was probably the best thing by the director. The whodunit format would be appreciated by the audience because they don’t get to use their brains while watching mindless flicks that seem to dominate the box office these days. The suspense that the audience so dearly misses will keep them entangled for two hours, and will make them leave satisfied, just like a good book with the right ingredients.