Knives Out is an ingenious new thriller that takes the bones of Agatha Christie and brilliantly updates it for the most purely entertaining movie of the year.
Daniel Craig stars as Benoit Blanc, “a private investigator of great renown.” He’s been hired to help investigate the death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a wealthy crime novelist. It’s initially been ruled a suicide, but Blanc suspects murder, his suspicions aroused even further after interviewing everyone in the family, all painting a rosier picture of their relationship with Harlan and each other.
Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Shannon play Harlan’s awful kids, with Chris Evans and Jaeden Martell playing their equally awful offspring, respectively. Toni Collette plays his daughter-in-law, with Katherine Langford as her daughter. While they initially appear to be less terrible than the rest, their base instincts reveal themselves in due time. This is one of those rare movies where every part is perfectly cast, down to the tiniest cameos (which include Frank Oz and M. Emmet Walsh). But Ana de Armas shines brightest as Marta, Harlan’s nurse and only friend. Rian Johnson wants us to admire her character’s innate goodness, and not just ogle her body as so many previous films have.
There are so many twists and turns in the film that just when it seems it may have tipped its hand too early, it reveals more and more layers. It’s jam-packed with little character beats, visual gags and plot details that don’t come into play until much later in the film. It’s perfectly crafted, doling out little bits of information to keep us on our toes, and keeping us suspicious of everyone.
Johnson also weaves in political themes throughout, in a way that makes it feel timely without feeling tacked-on. There will be a lot of moments where you’ll be laughing at the quick jabs, then gritting your teeth at how familiar some of the uncomfortable family conversations feel. It’s no mistake that this film is being released the day before Thanksgiving.
Like all of Johnson’s previous efforts, this is a cleverly plotted, well-directed film with plenty of humor and intense attention to detail. Even the clothing and architecture of the house is crucial to the story.
This is a classic murder mystery with modern trimmings, and absolutely your best bet for the Thanksgiving holiday season. Make sure you carve out some time for it.