Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindhome, Edi Patterson, Noah Segan, K Callan
Runtime: 130 minutes
Rian Johnson is a director I have very mixed feelings about. On one hand, he directed Looper, a strange take on time-travel and hitmen that I personally enjoyed quite a bit. On the other hand, he directed The Last Jedi, a movie I can’t stand and what I consider to be Star Wars‘ all-time low. Going into Knives Out, I wasn’t sure which Johnson we were going to get, but I was skeptically hopeful. The premise had me interested, and the stacked cast added excitement.
The basic premise of Knives Out follows detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) investigating the death of patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) of a wealthy and eccentric family. Because the entire movie is a mystery, I don’t want to talk to heavily about the plot in this review. What I will say on that is; there are a lot of reveals early in the film that set up an interesting twist to the typical murder mystery story and while I didn’t love all the narrative choices made, I think that this approach made the film ultimately more interesting. I know that’s probably not too satisfying of a description for some people, but this review will mostly be talking about the performances because I think that’s where the film really shines.
Craig is the Kentucky-fried Sherlock of the film as Benoit Blanc. I don’t know how or why, but Craig can really pull off a convincing southern accent. Ever since his role in Logan Lucky he’s proven he can be more than just a smooth action star and he shows that again here as the silly but effective private detective in charge of solving the murder. Along with Lieutenant Elliot (LaKeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wanger (Noah Segan), Blanc is also accompanied throughout the movie by Harlan’s personal nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), a young woman who is incapable of lying to the point where she vomits anytime she even tries to. This is a trait that I initially found a bit too silly and unbelievable, and while I still feel that way even now, I will admit that they do use it for some good gags throughout the film. This movie is really Marta’s film more than anyone else, and de Armas carries the role well. Stanfield and Segan don’t get a whole lot of screen time in the movie and exist mostly as support for Craig’s performance, but considering just how stacked the cast is I can’t say I wish they’d gotten bigger roles in the movie. Considering what they do have, they injected humor into plenty of scenes and I appreciated their presence in the movie.
Along with our two major players Craig and de Armas, the rest of the Thrombey family is made up of several big-name actors and actresses. Jamie Lee Curtis plays Harlan’s eldest daughter Linda, a strong-willed woman who believes she worked hard to secure a legacy of her own despite her father’s fame. Michael Shannon is Harlan’s youngest son Walt who runs the publishing company that produces all of Harlan’s mystery novels and wants to get movie and television adaptations of the books despite his father’s protests. Toni Collette plays Joni, the widow of Harlan’s late son Neil who seems to mooch money from her wealthy father-in-law. Chris Evans plays Ransom, the son of Linda and her husband Richard (Don Johnson), a certified asshole and the black sheep of the family. There are also others like IT star Jaeden Martell who is criminally underused in the film and Katherine Langford who is used too much in my opinion. No one gives a bad performance, but the stars are Craig, de Armas, and Evans for sure. I could praise Craig’s accent for hours, de Armas does a great job as a leading lady, and after seeing Evans as good boy Steve Rogers for the last decade I’m happy to see he can still play the role of a huge jerk reminiscent of his performance in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Shannon, Curtis, and Johnson also give great performances as well, and you can tell that the whole cast had a lot of fun filming this movie.
Unfortunately, my biggest criticisms are with the plot so I can’t really speak to them in detail, but I will say that because of the way the plot unfolds very early on the audience is aware of a certain fact that makes a lot of the initial investigating feel very pointless even if we do get to see a lot of good character development/interaction. The movie is a little over two hours, and I think maybe 20 minutes of it could have been cut to make a tighter film. Another big criticism I have is the cast… I know I just praised them, but the fact of the matter is because there are so many characters some don’t get much screen time at all. I didn’t mind Stanfield and Segan’s minor roles, but Martell is described as a “right-wing troll” throughout the movie but maybe has all of five lines. There’s a little bit too much showing rather than telling with a few of the characters that don’t get enough screen time and considering how interesting they sound I wish we’d have heard from them more than some of the other characters that were less so (Langford).
Knives Out was a movie that kept me entertained throughout despite the few eye rolls or glances at my watch. The cast is having a lot of fun, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t as well. Johnson, you got me on your good side with this one.
Knives Out is a fun film with a lot of entertainment value.