#REVIEW: “KNIVES OUT”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a wealthy and wildly popular Crime Novelist. The morning after celebrating his 85th birthday, Harlan is found dead in his study. The police interview his grieving family and discover they all have secrets and each one has their own motive for wanting Harlan dead. The police are not alone in their investigation however; someone has hired private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to help deduce what really happened. And Harlan’s caretaker Marta (Ana de Armas) seems to be the best place to start.
I could go on explaining and laying-out the Plot more intricately, but that would ruin the crazy amount of fun Writer/Director Rian Johnson unleashes with Knives Out. He has designed a whodunit that pays homage to everything and everyone that came before at the same time as it twists and completely inverts the formula that breathed life into the project in the first place. You may think you know where it is going by watching for all the subtle details and clues Johnson lays out – but there are a bunch more hidden that you will miss entirely. The exceptional level of detail here is staggering to say the least. Each room in Harlan’s mansion and beyond is unique and complex, with Johnson and the Production Design team pushing the very limits of what they can use within the foreground, the background and every ground in-between.
While it certainly looks great, the Script for Knives Out is even better. Johnson has composed something truly hilarious, mysterious and fantastical, resembling his early work on Brick and The Brothers Bloom more so than Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He keeps the dialogue fast-paced and snappy, doling out clues yet never extending his full hand. He lets the dialogue really capture the essence of each member of the Cast, allowing each one to have their own individual personality. He even gets to add in a bit of pointed commentary at the racist and sexist jerks who have had it out for him since Jedi’s release back in 2017, going so far as to include an actual conversation involving the abbreviation “SJW”. Yes, the context is just as funny whether you know what that stands for or not. He drags the Third Act out a bit too long for my liking, but his words carry through wonderfully nonetheless.
The incredible Ensemble Johnson has brought together is nothing short of astounding, no matter how big their role is. They each get their moment to shine, and come together to create the best Ensemble of any film this year. Plummer is particularly great as Thrombey, and de Armas is even better as the immigrant housekeeper caught in the middle of this caper. She steals scenes from just about everyone, equally leaning into the comedy, fear and humanity of the character. It is Craig however, who stands high above the rest, crafting an absurdist character with a deranged Foghorn Leghorn accent so unforgettable that you will immediately hope he returns for a Sequel. He has a blast with Benoit Blanc, alternatively playing the character as deadly serious and as a complete ham. He is a literal walking and talking parody of every mystery film/book investigator rolled into one (with a slight dash of James Bond). Despite this, Craig manages to make him feel distinct and completely different from everyone who came before him.
Knives Out is wicked fun from beginning to end. It is a little long in the tooth, but Johnson’s impeccable attention to detail and his amazing Script more than make-up for its shortcomings. The Ensemble Cast he has brought together for this audacious mystery is the best of the year, and maybe one of the best ever assembled. You definitely should not miss this one under any circumstance. Just make sure you leave the knives at home.
Mongrel Media release KNIVES OUT on Wednesday, November 27, 2019.