Rian Johnson returns with a thoughtful, challenging and supremely entertaining Agatha Christie inspired whodunit. ‘Knives Out’, with its exceptional ensemble cast, follows a detective as he investigates the murder of an antagonistic and absurd family’s Patriarch. This follows the director’s recent successes with the likes of Breaking Bad’s ‘Ozymandias’, considered by many as the series best episode, and of course his offering to the Star Wars saga ‘The Last Jedi’. The whodunit is not new fare for Johnson who dabbled in the genre with his first feature ‘Brick’ back in 2005, and has stated his desire to do a Christie-inspired mystery since 2010. It could be argued that it took so long as he wanted to make it on his terms. Clearly he succeeded calling the film “A Rain Johnson Whodunit”, justified by the fact he is the film’s director, producer and sole credited writer. As much a passion project as they come for filmmakers today.
‘Knives Out’ succeeds because of its symphonic coherence. It has a complex and dense narrative that unwinds with ease, using dialogue to relay just enough information, as it manoeuvres the audience throughout while never revealing the film’s winning hand. Johnson happily indulges in some of the genres most well known tropes without feeling forced but rather bringing a witty self-awareness to a film that is so sure of itself. With the addition of its ensemble cast that is as impressive as it is long. Lead by Daniel Craig’s smooth, southern detective Benoit Blanc but the heart and soul of the film is Ana De Armas’ Martha. With a wider supporting cast of names such as Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette and Christopher Plummer. The list is never ending and each one shines with their own larger than life role leading to sparks flying as the tensions rise. Among all the big names it is the lesser known Ana De Armas, known best for her supporting role as Joi in ‘Blade Runner 2049’, who shines through. A performance that is genuine, heart-warming and filled with humanity, giving a voice to a character that is very rarely offered centre-stage. Each character, their varying personalities and agendas succeed in keeping the audience on their toes.
The film blends classic with modern, taking the well known time period regularly attached to the genre and injecting it with up to date commentary and comedy. Johnson doesn’t shy away America’s politics challenging those in office, America’s ‘elite’ and those inflaming the discourse from behind their phones. The latter also being seen as a response to the poisonous part of the Star Wars fandom that rose up against Johnson for ‘The Last Jedi’ in 2017. The director’s response is an intelligent, witty and well executed rebuttal, that subtly critiques the factions of society that are so quick to point the finger and spread hate.
Entertaining from top to bottom, ‘Knives Out’ is an absorbing ‘Cluedo’ realisation with its many possible suspects and even the customary family arguments. The joy the cast and crew have for this film and its characters oozes off the screen and infects the audience. The humour is punchy, the narrative is well structured and the cast are supremely fun. Although Rain Johnson is hitched to the Star Wars wagon for the foreseeable future, with a secret film trilogy in the early stages of production, hopefully he gets that itch for another “Rian Johnson Whodunit” in the not too distant future.
Written by Conor Crooks
STAR RATING –★★★★★
Question: How would you rank Rian Johnson’s four feature films?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
Thanks for reading this review and please let us know what you thought about the movie! Leave a comment below or drop us a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.