April is here. It is the season when things start to look beautiful outside. Apparently, it is also the season for awkward transitions and forced analogies because it reminds me of a movie where every shot is seemingly beautifully staged and intricate. So how about we discuss Knives Out (2019, dir. Rian Johnson).
Knives Out is story of the mysterious death/murder of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), himself a writer of detective novels. His family is filled with colorful characters, each with combinations of motives and opportunity, including his nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas). World renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig with one of the most delightfully ridiculous accents ever captured on film) is hired to investigate, which gets complicated when the family learns Harlan had amended his will to leave everything to Marta. (This is a terrific opportunity to remind everyone to review their estate plans!)
Craig is the engine that makes the film run – giving it a deliberate pace that feels like we are uncovering the crime along with him. However, de Armas is the heart and soul of the movie. Even though we know (or at least we think we know) how involved she is in the death of Harlan, we feel the same things she does as the truth threatens to swallow her whole and destroy both her inheritance and her freedom should it break the wrong way. We also are treated to a Chris Evans like we have never seen, proving he is far more than a wholesome action star.
It is a visually stunning film – both in images captured but in how they are staged and shot. It is also a captivating story told in the most engaging manner while hitting on every mystery novel trope while exposing new angles to it at the same time. Some of the plot twists feel a little forced. Many of the character traits wholly unbelievable (particularly how we learn Marta is always to be trusted), but you never care for a second because the ride is so much fun.
The whodunnit genre had gotten incredibly stale over recent years – with arguably the last good one before Knives Out possibly going all the way back to Clue in 1988 – it was refreshing to see a new invigoration to the club. Hopefully, the upcoming sequel lives up to the hype created by the original, though count me as skeptical that it will. The rule of sequels is virtually unbeaten (original: great, first sequel: terrible, second sequel: average).
FUN FACT – Early in the film, Marta’s sister is seen watching a detective movie herself. We never see the screen but hear the dialogue of a tough-talking detective. This detective is voiced by frequent Rian Johnson collaborator, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Just Watch says that Knives Out is streaming on Fubo, DirecTV, and Subs. You can also rent or buy it on most platforms.