Knives Out –
director Rian Johnson’s first film since Star Wars: The Last Jedi – will be coming off the silver screen soon. Should you be dashing to the cinema to see it whilst you can? Here is Jacob Ottaway’s review.
The murder mystery genre is always going to be a challenge to pull off correctly on the big screen. Nowadays, the murder mystery style is set more for television – there are so many good ones in the UK; from Death in Paradise, to Luther via Midsomer Murders – which suit vast, varying audiences. So, has Rian Johnson done enough to make Knives Out big screen worthy, whilst encouraging a wide-spanning audience of mystery thrill seekers? In short, yes. The man has done so absolutely superbly.
Knives Out sees novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) found dead and a swanky, delightful detective by the name of Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is enlisted to find out just how the popular author suddenly passed. The challenge for Blanc? A highly dysfunctional, materialistic family (featuring the likes of Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson and Chris Evans) are all demanding answers, and Thrombey’s personal nurse and friend (Ana De Armas) has been caught in the middle of a puzzling death.
Daniel Craig, of course, is the big poster star in this. And his character is a captivating character with intelligence and charm that gets all of the audience on board. A good detective needs a certain amount of allure to make us fall in love, and Benoit Blanc has allure by the bucketful. The moment we first see him, out of focus in the background whilst the police (Lakeith Stanfield & Noah Segan) interrogate the family – I was drawn in straight away. ‘Who is this mysterious man? I must know more!’ It’s a fabulous performance by Daniel Craig, but there was one performance in this film that absolutely blew me away.
Ana de Armas, in her role as Marta (Thrombey’s nurse), was sublime. We know what Armas is capable of – she’s been in a few high-concept films now including Blade Runner 2049 where she played Joi… and she definitely brought joy to this film! Marta is a fantastically well-written character by Rian Johnson; the writing of her is fit for an Agatha Christie novel. Her character embodies so many traits and feelings that we can relate to – oppression, fear, but she also feels admiration and empathy for those who may actually want to hurt her. Marta always has an ace up her sleeve and grows in ways that I wouldn’t have expected. Ana de Armas is the real star of this film and can only rise from here – she’s set to feature in the next Bond film, and I’ll be sprinting to the cinema to see what she stars in after.
From a British point of view, you can gain pleasure from how accurately the film portrays and then pokes fun at American attitudes towards consumerism, materialism, and people who aren’t American born and bred. It’s amusing, albeit slightly dark at how realistic it is. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to have a film which is produced and made by Americans, which actually says ‘we should take a look at our values’ rather than being typically boisterous. Whether Americans feel the same is another matter.
A final point on a personal level – I love murder mystery. For someone my age, I have watched far too much Death in Paradise and other similar shows, and I do have an ability to see twists coming. Out of
all the rollercoaster of twists and turns in the film, I only saw ONE coming. Knives Out had a myriad of twists and turns, but the vital thing is almost all of them made my jaw drop and eyes widen – I was thrilled. If I wasn’t in a cinema, I’d have been screaming phrases like ‘NO WAY’ and ‘OH MY GOD’. That’s what the film is designed to do.
Should you go and see this film whilst it’s still on the big screen? A large yes is the answer. The film is served with great casting, impeccably written characters, and – if you can put up with a little bit of gore and disgusting things – is stunning in a visual and narrative sense. Make sure you get a large popcorn and drink to go with what is served above – you will have a wonderful time.