Film Review: Knives Out

Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Daniel Craig, Toni Collete and Chris Evans
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

My House, My Rules, My Coffee

“The circumstances surrounding the death of crime novelist Harlan Thrombey are mysterious, but there’s one thing that renowned Detective Benoit Blanc knows for sure—everyone in the wildly dysfunctional Thrombey family is a suspect. Now, Blanc must sift through a web of lies and red herrings to uncover the truth.”

This was a super fun whodunnit filled with snark, wit, and confident over-the-top performances by all involved. From the maid, Marta (Ana de Armas) on through to the star names who, by the way, must have had an absolute blast letting loose on the premise—being wildly dysfunctional—where else do grown-ups get to play dress-up and getting paid for it.

I would loved to have been a fly on set with them during scene takes. But that aside, the casting was spot on for this disparate bunch of crazy characters who smugly lauded their superiority and prejudices over the hired help, while constantly sticking it to one another when they’re supposedly celebrating the birthday of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), the patriarch of the family.

Plummer’s performance was, as is to be expected, subtle and nuanced, leaving the dramatics to the rest of the cast. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the loving daughter, Linda, who seems to be the only one of Harlan’s children who seemed to have it together and, with her husband, Richard—played by Don Johnson—squarely under her thumb, at least had genuine affection for her game playing father.

With Toni Collete playing the widowed daughter-in-law, Michael Shannon as son Walt, caretaker of Harlan’s publishing company, and Chris Evans as the terrible youngest son, Ransom, the stage is set for a lot of shenanigans.

But the centrepiece of the story, and the glue that holds this movie together, is the excellent performance by Ana de Armes playing Marta, who absolutely shines. I especially loved the scenes between her and Daniel Craig’s outrageously over-the-top character, Benoit Blanc, a private detective helping out the police after Harlan is found dead. Was Craig secretly channelling Clarence Darrow? Quite possibly. But I digress.

While I don’t want to talk in depth about the plot and how it unfolds—it’s masterful—I do want to highlight the running gag that had me laughing. The Thrombey family are so insincere in their pledge to Marta about looking after her and her mother that not one of them can remember which South America country she comes from, and as each talks about her to Blanc, they cite a different country of origin: Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil … it’s too funny for words.

All in all Knives Out is a cleverly done whodunnit with great performances, snappy, snarky dialogue, and deliciously campy performances. A must see if ever there was one.