Knives Out (2019) is a whodunnit murder mystery and the first film by director and writer Rian Johnson after his controversial turn in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This film has easily one of the biggest cast lists of 2019, with the film starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Plummer to only name a few. When nurse Marta (de Armas) discovers the dead body of Harlan Thrombey (Plummer), what appears to be a suicide opens up to a full investigation as a mysterious figure pays detective Benoit Blanc (Craig) to figure out the reason for the sudden death, and find the potential murder suspect.
This film is incredibly thrilling, and that is due to the narrative that is set up. Surprisingly, this film is actually thrilling in a way that I did no expect, but I cannot talk about why due to it being heavy spoilers for the film. Instead of just being suspenseful and focusing on the mystery of the murder, this film focuses on human interaction and creating suspense in a more political and emotional sense, rather than just curiosity.
The performances in this film, as you can imagine from the cast list, is nothing short of extraordinary. If I was to highlight anyone in particular here, it would easily be Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas. Craig here is surprisingly hilarious in his role, and it is a performance that I would love to see more of in his detective tales. Ana de Armas holds most of the film here, which to me was unexpected but I am glad I have been exposed to her as she does a fantastic job balancing all of the emotions and stories that her character faces in this film.
If there is any chance of this film getting recognition this awards season outside of an ensemble cast, it should definitely be for the production design of the mansion. Not only does the layout of the house form a part of the mystery itself, but it is just gorgeous to look at. The cinematography emphasises the beauty of the location, constantly showing the quirky ornaments and emphasising the luxury style of this place. It is gorgeous to look at and be in for a majority of the film.
Rian Johnson manages to write a script here that manages to balance a tone between suspense, emotion and humour. When it needs to be, this film is tense and suspenseful. This film surprisingly has a lot of heart and emotion, connecting itself to today’s political and world issues. However, the strongest aspects of this film are when it is comedic. Not only is Craig comedic, but Chris Evans and Toni Collette, in particular, are also hilarious due to both their performances and the hilarious script.
Considering how heavily the cast is used in the marketing of this film, I was shocked and also disappointed as to how little screen time a lot of them actually have. Aside from the obvious few that I have mentioned here, the rest of the cast feel left out and lacking of personality. I wanted more from the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Shannon, whose screen time seems to be even less than that of the dead Hanlan Thrombey. Despite the amount of people here, it does feel like a two-person show throughout a majority of the film.
The film also makes us care less and less about the actual mystery throughout the film, that the classic finale of the reveal of the mystery almost lacks any shock value. I may not have connected every piece together, but I felt like I could take a guess at what the film was building up and that is the route they took here. The ending itself is impactful, well written and executed, but I would have liked more focus on the mystery building up to it and for it to be perhaps less predictable.
Whilst I may have been slightly disappointed by the use of certain characters here, Rian Johnson has once again proved how strong he is as a director and screenwriter. The story is thrilling from start to finish, with great use of comedy mixed throughout to keep the audience entertained. This is a film that has something for everyone and I would definitely recommend this for a fun film this holiday season.
Did you get a chance to check out Knives Out? What did you make of this whodunnit piece, and did you figure out the mystery? Let me know in the comments section and let’s have a discussion.