Writer-director Rian Johnson’s murder mystery Knives Out is tremendous fun. The star cast are on great form in this very entertaining film.
When Harlan Thrombey, a successful author and head of the Thrombey family, is found dead, the police begin an investigation. The detectives wish to interview each family member, to see what they know about his death…
Knives Out combines the old and the new in its rendition of the murder mystery. The film has the hallmarks of classic murder mystery. After all there is the secluded period mansion, the wealthy patriarch and the squabbling family, and the detective with a stellar reputation. Johnson plays with these tropes, sometimes referring to them explicitly, in his version of a murder mystery. He also brings a contemporary edge to proceedings. The film does not feel like a parody of the genre; Knives Out rather comes across as a film from someone who has admiration of what has come before.
Johnson offers a fresh and engaging story. To begin with, it seems as if the film will follow the formula of several suspects and a detective attempting to ascertain the murderer. Yet in the first third of Knives Out, Johnson throws a curveball. The narrative veers off in a different direction, with a particular witness the focus of much of the film. This twist works well; viewers will not know exactly how much to trust, and indeed who else may be in on it.
One of the highlights of Knives Out is the way in combines mystery with humour. The film is frequently funny, and there are some great lines. Humour is present throughout, and this does not diminish the mystery. It is a difficult tightrope to walk, yet Johnson manages it exceptionally well.
Set design in the film is wonderful. Nathan Johnson’s score is also great. Ana de Armas delivers a solid performance as Marta. The stellar ensemble cast are well cast, with Daniel Craig appearing to have a lot of fun with his role. Don Johnson, Toni Collette and Chris Evans are also great fun.
With Knives Out, Rian Johnson plants several red herrings, offers up twists, and delivers a hugely enjoyable film.
Knives Out is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.