Current Issue #488

Film Review:
Knives Out

The cast of Knives Out

Rian Johnson’s blackly comedic murder mystery offers a genuinely star cast, plenty of pleasing malice and twisting plot that would have perplexed – and probably offended – Agatha Christie.

Johnson’s cred after Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper and the fanbase-splitting Star Wars: The Last Jedi has allowed the filmmaker to assemble a very cool ensemble of players for an epic ‘whodunnit’ that, while certainly entertaining, doesn’t really stand up to too much close scrutiny.

Vastly wealthy mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found apparently murdered the morning after his 85th birthday party, which conveniently means that much of his mean-spirited family are nearby and can be easily interrogated. And interrogated they definitely are by Detective Lieutenant Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan), who both rather improbably keep allowing a mysterious PI, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), to butt in with a kind of Sherlock Holmes/Hercule Poirot-type pushiness.

The Cheshire-born Craig obviously relishes the chance to get well away from James Bond and put on a showier version of the Southern-friend accent he adopted in Steven Soderbergh’s Logan Lucky, and he’s very amusing, despite the character’s inherent preposterousness. It’s a pleasure watching him needle the family’s unsympathetic members, including: pinched daughter Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her philandering husband Richard (Don Johnson); New-Age-ish daughter-in-law Jodi (Toni Collette), widow of deceased son Neil, and her maybe nice daughter Megan (Katherine Langford); menacing Walter (Michael Shannon), now CEO of Harlan’s publishing company, his forgotten wife Donna (Riki Lindhome) and their creepy alt right son Jacob (Jaeden Martell); and Ransom, Linda and Richard’s wayward son, who’s revealed, of course, to be played by no less than Chris ‘Captain America’ Evans.

In the midst of all this charming unpleasantness is Harlan’s nurse and companion Marta Cabrera (Cuban actress Ana de Armas), a woman of uncertain nationality because no one cares where she comes from, and yet still more characters, such as creaky Wanetta or ‘Great Nana’ (K. Callan), Harlan’s impossibly elderly Mom, and his lawyer, Alan Stevens, who’s portrayed by someone you’ll never recognise, because he’s weirdly using his real voice here.

All these players threaten to go over-the-top but don’t (just!), and their combined comic clout helps patch over some of the more dubious aspects here, with Craig, Collette and Shannon particularly shining, but very nearly upstaged by the more subdued de Armas (who might or might not be a ‘Bond Girl’ in the forthcoming No Time To Die alongside Craig, of course). And, finally, there’s that almost ludicrously spoiler-baiting plot, which seems totally ingenious at first but, just maybe, isn’t quite, and which will potentially induce stabbing pains in your brain if you think about it too much.

Reviewer Rating

Knives Out (M) is in cinemas now

DM Bradley

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