The classic ‘whodunit’ murder mystery is a plot device that has been around literally forever. The writer leads the audience on a chase to follow the clues, ignore the misleading red herrings, and figure out (prior to being told) who committed the crime. Agatha Christie mastered the technique and if you missed last year’s version of Murder on the Orient Express, you should check it out.
Knives Out is a modern murder mystery written and directed by Rian Johnson with an incredible cast and fabulous story. It feels very much like a game of Clue, which I adore. The Thrombey family is gathered at the home of Harlan, the patriarch, to celebrate his 80th birthday. Sometime between the end of the party and the next morning, Harlan’s throat is cut. Because the house was filled with people, there is a large collection of suspects. The police come by the house after the funeral two weeks later to interview everyone with the assistance of “American” investigator, Benoit Blanc, to discover exactly what happened. Hijinks ensue.
I can’t say anything else without spoiling the movie and really, you should see this one. It is excellent. Johnson has created a funny and snarky near-perfect murder mystery with an exceptional cast. Each of them has a reason to be the murderer and the movie is crafted well enough to sweep the audience along as Blanc and the police try to determine exactly what happened. The cast seems to be truly enjoying themselves, but not at the expense of the audience which is a pitfall of some more pretentious movies. This one seems to be a party the audience is invited to.
- Daniel Craig is the one thing I would have changed about this movie – now, that’s mainly due to my intense dislike of him. But, why is this British man playing an American detective? Are there no other American actors that were available at the time who would have enjoyed it more? He’s fine in the roll and while Blanc starts off as a bit aloof, eventually Craig manages to pull the audience to his side as he review the clues.
- Jamie Lee Curtis plays Linda Drysdale, Harlan’s daughter. She had a special connection to her father and loved spending time with him in his house.
- Don Johnson plays Richard Drysdale, Linda’s husband. He’s not all that thrilled about the rest of the family and has no problem sharing his opinion.
- Michael Shannon plays Walt Thrombey, Harlan’s son. He’s running Harlan’s publishing company and was asking about selling the rights to Harlan’s books to movie production companies the night of the party.
- Riki Lindhome plays Janet Thrombey, Walt’s wife. She’s underutilized here and is mainly identified as Walt’s wife and the mother of their terrible son, Jacob, played by Jaeden Martell.
- Toni Collette plays Joni Thrombey, Harlan’s daughter-in-law. She was married to his other son, but he passed away. She’s started a ‘lifestyle’ brand after having been helped by Harlan. He’s also paying for her daughter Meg’s school. Katherine Langford plays Meg.
- Chris Evans plays Hugh Ransom Drysdale, Richard and Linda’s son and Harlan’s favorite grandson. He’s an absolute terrible person with no aim in life who has mainly been living on handouts from Harlan.
- Ana de Armas plays Marta, Harlan’s nurse and friend. She’s the only person he truly trusted, not only with his medicine, but with his secrets.
- LaKeith Stanfield plays Lieutenant Elliott and Noah Segan play the two police officers on the case. Stanfield’s cop is irritated with the entire situation and Segan’s cop is really having a good time.
- Edi Patterson plays Fran, Harlan’s housekeeper, who seems to have an opinion about everything.
- Frank Oz, (yes, Frank Oz!) plays Harlan’s lawyer, Alan Stevens. He’s there to read the will and reveal some plot-advancing news.
- K. Callan plays Great Nana Wanetta, Harlan’s mother. She’s in the house, but the family treats her like a piece of the furniture and they have no idea how old she is.
- Christopher Plummer plays Harlan and truly seems to be having more fun than anyone else, embracing the silliness of the over-the-top characters at work.
Overall, the movie is exquisitely crafted, well-acted, and incredibly fun. The thanksgiving weekend release was perfect, I went to see it with my whole family and had a great time.
9 out of 10 – Just because I personally have to take away a point for Daniel Craig and that accent, don’t let that stop you. That might even be your favorite thing in the movie!
There are better and more classic murder mysteries, but this one reminded me how much I loved Clue and how Tim Curry carried that nonsense all the way through.