Who killed Christopher Plummer? That is the million-dollar question, and Daniel Craig is out to find the answer – but not as James Bond. This time, he’s Benoit Blanc, a cigar smoking celebrity private investigator, with a hilarious southern drawl that he somehow manages to nail. He’s been hired anonymously to investigate the death of Harlan Thrombey, an extremely successful mystery novelist, who apparently committed suicide on the night of his 85th birthday. What follows is an absolutely mindboggling piece of cinema in a genre that had somewhat become a parody of itself.
Once the Thrombey family discovers that their patriarch is no more, chaos ensues. The detectives that have been put on the case (wonderfully played by LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Sevan) rule it as an open and shut suicide, but Craig’s Benoit Blanc suspects foul play as he suspects someone from the Thrombey family had a hand in murdering the best-selling author. And as he methodically gathers evidence, everyone becomes a suspect. At the very least, almost everyone appears to have had a motive, even more so once the reading of the will freezes them out of the multimillion-dollar estate.
That setup creates the opportunity for some extraordinary character work from a dream ensemble cast. Harlan’s daughter Linda (the indominable Jamie Lee Curtis) is a real estate maven married to Richard (Don Johnson), a very Trump-like philanderer. Their aptly named son Ransom (Chris Evans) is the black sheep of the family, a playboy whose idle ways are frowned upon by a clan who like to regard themselves, somewhat falsely, as self-made entrepreneurs. Ransom is a far cry from the strong willed Captain America that Evans is known to have played for the better part of this decade. But that’s the beauty of his versatility. Evans has managed to play a character as despicable as Ransom so well that you’d never have guessed it’s the same guy who once played that legendary superhero who always did the right thing.
Continuing on with the line-up, Linda’s brother Walt (Michael Shannon) manages his father’s publishing empire (I say manage, but his father doesn’t really let him have much control), while his teenage son Jacob (Jaeden Martell) keeps busy trolling liberals on social media. Harlan’s other daughter, Joni (Toni Collette), is a widowed lifestyle guru whose health, beauty and spiritual wellness empire, channelling her inner Gwyneth Paltrow. As the night of the murder/birthday party is depicted through all their perspectives, it seems like everyone is a suspect.
Everyone except Harlen’s nurse and carer Marta, played spectacularly by Ana de Armas (she is the lifeline of this film), who ends up vomiting every time she lies. Blanc ends up making her the Watson to his Holmes (there’s quite a few Sherlock nods in this movie) and while he tries to figure out who killed Harlen, he’s got a bigger mystery to solve – who hired him and why? And as with the very best whodunnits, every single thing is a set up. Every meticulous detail, right from the very beginning of the film is a build up to the big reveal, and it is such a cathartic experience watching it al unfold.
Knives Out is an homage to those classic Agatha Christie novels like Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, and wow, what an homage it is. The movie is filled with call backs to various pop culture moments, and numerous nods and Easter eggs. There’s even a Game of Thrones nod when various members of the Thrombey family and staff are interrogated against a macabre art piece with knives, axes and saws fanning out like the back of the Iron Throne.
And just like all the Christie novels, this movie is packed with social satire. De Armas’ Marta is repeatedly told that she is indeed a part of the family, but she is not invited to Harlan’s funeral. There is even a bit where the family members discuss immigration and entitlement, which seems like an eerie jab at today’s political climate in America, and it manages to raise quite a few eyebrows (and laughs).
And let us not forget the set design. The Thrombey house is very much like something taken straight out of Cleudo with hidden windows, creaky stairs and secret passages and doors. A lush green estate with snobby residents to match. I also feel like it is worth mentioning the beautiful sweater Chris Evans wore throughout the film. It is being raved about so much that the official Knives Out twitter account changed their name to ‘Chris Evans’ Sweater Stan Account’ for a while, and I have to say, I agree.
Making murder mystery movies isn’t easy. There have been many whodunnits with ensemble casts that just did not manage to stick the landing. But director Rian Johnson not only manages to make the perfect movie that keeps us guessing, but also has us laughing all the way through it. Most of these films take a serious route, but Johnson made sure it was light-hearted and packed with an abundance of jokes – while also completely blowing your mind and keeping you at the edge of your seats. A delicious throwback to the all-star whodunit, this juicy comedy thriller is a treat from start to finish, and it is definitely not something you’d want to give a miss.
Featured Image: Lionsgate.