If Rian Johnson’s feature debut, 2005’s high school noir Brick, was an ode to Dashiell Hammett, then Knives Out is his love letter to Agatha Christie – and what a love letter it is!
Knives Out’s investigates the death of legendary murder mystery author Harlan Thrombey set against the backdrop of a house brilliantly filled with memorabilia and designs from his books. The kind of house a murder mystery absolutely deserves to happen in.
Such attention to detail includes an entire board of knives which comically frames Daniel Craig’s ridiculously Southern private investigator, Benoit Blanc – his name perhaps a reference to the detective game Cluedo.
Johnson’s love for the genre is immediately palpable, and so strong throughout the film that it makes you feel about as warm and fuzzy as you can in a film about death.
Despite the immediate visual of traditional murder mystery, Johnson shakes up the film’s plot, taking the usual murder mystery set-up and seemingly turning it on its head.
However, he does return the audience safely into the hands of the familiar murder mystery by way of an intriguing jaunt that surprisingly introduces Ana de Armas’s Marta Cabrera as our protagonist.
Marta is Harlan’s kind-hearted nurse and Johnson provides a great emotional depth to the film through her character. While the family bickers about Harlan’s inheritance, Marta is genuinely upset at the tragic loss of her employer.
She’s also an unexpected source of comic relief; her inability to tell a lie without throwing up gives us more than a few laugh-out-loud scenes, especially when she’s paired with the loud and charismatic Benoit.
There is almost nothing Knives Out fails to deliver on. The film keeps us guessing as various mysteries arise and are unraveled, it gives us an eccentric but lovable new detective-there have already been calls for a Benoit Blanc-centric sequel – along with plenty of action, comedy, and tragedy in equal measure.
There’s also a great cast in the unpleasantly rich Thrombey family, played by the great and the good of Hollywood, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson and Michael Shannon.
However, it’s America’s sweetheart Chris Evans who steals the show, playing up the nasty in his role reversal as the smug, hated Ransom Thrombey. It’s hard to steal a movie from Daniel Craig with an endearingly terrible Southern accent, but arguably Evans and his beloved jumper do.
In a time of political turmoil and general unrest, Knives Out is just the antidote we needed. The entire film is full of fun, touching on beloved murder mystery tropes but keeping itself fresh with a few twists and turns of its own. Benoit Blanc is a detective with heart and gusto. The film is engaging, thrilling, and most of all, reminds us to be kind.
Image: Dick Thomas Johnson via Wikimedia Commons