KNIVES OUT (directed by Rian Johnson, 130 minutes, USA, 2019)
BY DAN TABOR The whodunnit murder mystery is a genre that’s kind of faded into obscurity over the years. It’s probably because audiences are a lot savvier when it comes this genre’s patented plot twist denouement reveal, making this one of the more difficult genres to pull off effectively in the age of social media. Be that as it may, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is a brilliant love letter to the drawing room sleuthing of the likes of Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen, and easily one of the best films of the year.
The mystery at the heart of Knives Out is the “suicide” of wealthy murder-mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) on the night of his 85thbirthday party. Legendary private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) arrives on the scene shortly after Harlan’s funeral, to begin investigating the death by questioning Harlan’s eccentric overachieving family. After it becomes apparent the stellar rogue’s gallery ensemble of Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson and Toni Collette all had a motive, it’s up to the Southern gentleman PI to get to the bottom of what exactly transpired that night.
Assisted by Harlan’s immigrant caregiver Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), Johnson uses the mystery to explore class, racism and the 1% as the plot continues to thicken. Rian Johnson has crafted an edge of your seat mystery that is bitingly relevant as it is clever, and feels like a pointed response to the alt-right trolling Johnson was subjected to in the wake of The Last Jedi. Armed with a stellar cast and an irreverent, meticulously-paced script, Johnson has crafted a new genre classic that will hopefully give us more adventures of Benoit Blanc in the near future.