TIFF 2019 Review: Knives Out is One of the Most Outrageously Entertaining Movies of the Decade.
Knives Out is a hilarious, old-fashioned whodunit, written and directed by Rian Johnson. When the Thrombeys gather together to celebrate their patriarch, Harlan’s (Christopher Plummer) 85th birthday, things seem relatively normal. However, the next morning, Harlan appears to have taken his own life. As the cops launch their investigation, a private detective named Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) shows up at the estate, claiming he has been blindly hired to assist. As Blanc interviews members of the Thrombey family, he pieces together their stories, leading him to believe there may be more to Harlan’s death than what everyone has been led to believe.
Johnson has assembled an all-star cast which includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Daniel Craig, Toni Colette, and Chris Evans, amongst several others. Each actor has been cast to play a particular role in the story, and while some have more screentime than others, every cast member shines. It’s the kind of ensemble cast where everyone seems to have been having a lot of fun during the making of the film. Individually each of these actors is good, but all together they are great. All are committed to the zaniness of this world Johnson created.
Ana de Armas and Daniel Craig stand out in their lead performances. Armas has come a long way since her acting debut in 2006’s Virgin Rose, and her performance as Marta is her best to date. Marta is the nurse who has taken care of Harlan for years. Armas is undeniably charming in the role, making it so damn easy for the audience to root for her.
Knives Out also marks the first time Armas has been cast in a comedic role. Her comedic timing is spot on, and without giving anything away, I love the added detail of how her character has an affliction with the potential to reveal certain truths when responding to questions. I won’t say anything more, but it serves as an amusing and clever plot device.
Speaking of comedy, Craig should take on more comedic roles. He was great as Joe Bang in Logan Lucky and ups the ante as Benoit Blanc in Knives Out. Blanc is a combination of Columbo and Hercule Poirot. Moreover, if paying homage to two iconic detectives wasn’t enough for Craig’s Blanch to stand out, the character has a charming southern drawl. When combined with his singing and hilarious analogies about donut holes, you can’t help but fall in love with the character. This character is easily one of the best roles that Craig has taken on, and I can totally see a series of spin-off films featuring Blanc.
Rian Johnson has received a lot of flack over the past two years for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Even while I was no fan of the film, I don’t blame Johnson, nor do I understand the ridiculous amount of backlash it received from certain groups of fans. Johnson has a proven track record with original films as a director and writer. Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and Looper are all great examples of his remarkable talent as a filmmaker and storyteller. However, with Knives Out, Johnson has upped the ante by creating a murder mystery comedy sure to become an instant classic.
Johnson’s terrific direction combined with his razor-sharp script makes Knives Out standout as one of the most outrageously entertaining films of the decade. While that may sound like a big claim to make, few other movies have kept me as engaged and entertained as I was when watching Knives Out. There is just something special about the way Johnson seamlessly combined comedy and mystery, with a sprinkle of social and political commentary for good measure.
With so many jokes in the film, it is nearly impossible to catch them all. A joke about influencers seriously had me laughing for a minute straight. There is even a Hamilton joke for those in the know. Kudos to Johnson for incorporating a layer of commentary through a combination of sight gags and dialogue. There are a few hilarious jabs aimed at the 1% percent while various members of the Thrombey family discuss immigration reform.
Knives Out is a refreshingly original take on a classic whodunit tale with a modern-day spin. With one of the best casts ever assembled, a razor-sharp script, and impeccable direction, Knives Out may just end up being the wildest time you will have at the movies this year. It’s a must-see and deserves plenty of awards love.