Knives Out (2019). Film review of the star-studded, murder mystery

Film image Knives Out (2019) cast
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Comedy

Jason

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Win

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Film review, by Jason Day and Win Hughes of Knives Out, the murder mystery satire about a Detective investigating the death an eccentric head of a rich family and his combative descendants. Starring Daniel Craig and Jamie Lee Curtis.

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Synopsis

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is the internationally renowned author of several best-selling murder mysteries and has built up a considerable fortune and publishing empire.

This has benefited his family in many ways but after they dutifully gather for his 85th birthday celebrations, Harlan is found dead the next day, having seemingly committed suicide with one of his favourite knives.

As his devoted family are revealed under police questioning to be flawed, unfaithful, greedy and grasping individuals, the well-known private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) who otherwise sits as a silent observer, puts Harlan’s saintly and respected nurse Marta (Ana de Armas) under the spotlight. She has more secrets than the others put together.

Review, by @Reelreviewer and @win_hughes

image poster knives out

Eat shit, eat shit, eat shit…definitely eat shit…

Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans) addresses each of his family members in turn in Knives Out (2019).

Coming on like a modern day Sleuth (1972) is this delectably venal, family-at-each-others-throats comedy, dark as a pint of Guinness and just as bitter and intoxicating.

There’s no better cinema experience than to sit back and enjoy a rich, privileged family descending into avaricious antagonism.

Aaah…captivating capitalism!

It’s a cracking premise for a script and you can’t say the producers haven’t lavished the $40m budget on a silky smooth cast.

But Rian Johnson’s script could have been gamier and pushed deeper and harder, given them all something to really get their teeth into. The writing has a fine edge to it but just at the point of spiffing, sarcastic spite, it chickens out and runs for the hills!

I know I can expect too much from movies like this. Greta (2019) had the potential to be full-on bonkers, but wimped out, wasting the motherly neuroticism of French cinema legend Isabelle Huppert.

I should manage my expectations a little more, but come on Johnson. When you plunge the knife in for a murderous family discord drama, have the gumption to twist it around whilst you are down there. Go for it!

But back to that cast and, praise be to Jamie Lee Curtis! Infrequently seen on the silver screen these days, but always with impact when she does (see her kick-ass Laurie Strode in the re-boot Halloween, released last year). Here, as Harlan’s daughter Linda, she stalks around in plush suits, lacerating all before her with her wardrobe, tongue or basilisk like stare.

Complete aside here…but the colour scheme in this movie is magnificent. From costumes, coiffuring, cinematography to make-up, it is a shrill delight for the eyes. And don’t get me started on the dark, woody, autumnal production design. Stunning!

Following closely behind Curtis are Michael Shannon as her greasy, bearded brother, Don Johnson as her slimy husband and, best of all, Toni Collette as her drunken, parasitic, bohemian ‘Instagram sensation’ sister-in-law.

Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey in Knives Out (2019).
Who dun him in?! Christopher Plummer stars as Harlan Thrombey in Knives Out (2019). Image: Lionsgate.

This sort of performance is a walk in the park for Plummer, who has essayed some splendid support turns in the past decade or so – from Nicholas Nickleby (2002) and Beginners (2010) – as older men with a twinkle in their eye who spin their families and forbears upside down. He isn’t on screen for long enough, but you’ll cherish him when he’s there.

Another actor I thought was rather tasty – for more reasons than one! – is Chris Evans. Formerly just ‘guy candy’ in tight, superhero clothing, he uses his smug, pretty boy screen personality to good advantage here as the laziest, most disreputable of trust fund cads.

He’s a total, unadulterated arsehole who would sell his own grandmother to get ahead. And you’ll enjoy watching his Machiavellian manoeuvres. Also, that bod looks good even in a heavy woollen sweater.

He’s bringing sexy (sweater) back. Chris Evans stars as the ultimate charmless arsehole, Ransoms Drysden in Knives Out (2019). Image: Lionsgate.

Daniel Craig is an interesting addition. A bit like a peep-hole Poirot, his Benoit is like Hercule, no Frenchman but still indulges in the most ridiculous of accents. Craig’s enthusiasm and bounciness is a delight, but the exaggerated southern drawl entertains but foes not convince. It’s a bit like Marlon Brando’s English fop in Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

Film image Kinves Out Daniel Craig Ana de Armas
“Ahhh do declaire!” Daniel Craig’s southern drawl doesn’t quite convince Ana de Armas in Knives Out (2019). Image: Lionsgate.

My good pal Win Hughes is, like Marta, an Adult Nursing professional, and had this to add:

Firstly, I really enjoyed seeing this movie. It was a brilliantly cast film and Jamie Lee Curtis was fabulous – she stole every scene she was in. There great twists and turns to the plot that kept you guessing and the writer worked in some really good laughs, too.

For more, see the official website.

Cast & credits

Director: Rian Johnson. 2hr 10mins/130mins. Lionsgate/Media Rights Capital/T-Street. (12a).

Producers: Ram Bergen, Rian Johnson.
Writer: Rian Johnson.
Camera: Steve Yedlin.
Music: Nathan Johnson.
Sets: David Crank.

Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Riki Lindhome, Frank Oz.

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