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Film Review: Knives Out

6 December 19 words: Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

Rian Johnson's intriguing whodunnit packs an all-star cast, but is it more than just the sum of its parts?

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas

Running time: 130 mins

A murder has taken place. Or has it?  Sometime between the night of Harlan Thrombey’s 85th birthday party and the morning after, the housekeeper finds him in his study with his throat slit. Whodunnit? Was it his daughter - successful business-woman Linda? Or was it his faltering and apparently frail son Walt? Could it have been his arrogant grandson Ransome? Or maybe his widowed daughter-in-law, Joni? Or could it possibly be a bizarre and terrible suicide? Gentleman-sleuth Benoit Blanc is on the case, and what a case it will be…

The cast list reads as a who’s who of famous faces with Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Christopher Plummer and Don Johnson to name but a few. Yet even though there are some big personalities, they never overwhelm each other, staying just on the right side of absurd. As a complicated series of events unfold around the Thrombey family, and as the facts revel themselves, the family ties unwind and break down. Accusations start flying, fingers are pointed and questions are asked.  Why did Harlan Thrombey start tying up his accounts before he died? What were Harlan and Ransome arguing about? Who was coming and going on the creaky staircase in the middle of the night? And what was that loud bump that Joni heard? And possibly the most important of all, is Harlan’s nurse, Marta, really unable to tell a lie without throwing up? 

From one moment to the next, it is almost impossible to guess where the next step might lead

From one moment to the next, it is almost impossible to guess where the next step might lead. Which is refreshing in a world used to the classic twists and turns of Agatha Christie-esque thrillers. Daniel Craig is an absolutely joy as Benoit Blanc, with a superbly hammed up Southern drawl, lurking around the family in a manner that might be naïve, or brilliantly executed to lull everyone into a false sense of thinking. And Ana de Armas brings the perfect amount of wide-eyed innocence to the much put upon Marta. But possibly the best performance goes to Chris Evans, who seems to be revelling in being set free from the strictures of playing the ultimate goody Captain America.

Director Rian Johnson is right on form with this pseudo-Cluedo tale that has you guessing from the moment it starts, right up until the end. After venturing into the realms of time travel with Looper in 2012 and Star Wars epic The Last Jedi, Johnson returns to his roots in a project reminiscence of his debut, Brick (2005). It may lack the noir elements, but it has the detective mystery down perfectly. It’s a film that has more humour than most comedies and a bigger heart as well. Its been worth the wait, and you won’t be disappointed.

Did you know? The police detective (billed in the credits as Detective Hardrock) heard on the television series Marta's sister is watching is voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has appeared in all five of the films Rian Johnson has directed.

Knives Out is in cinemas now