Daniel Craig investigates the murder of the patriarch of a quirky and dysfunctional family in Rian Johnson’s star-studded ensemble whodunnit. The cast includes Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Ana de Armas and Lakeith Stanfield with Christopher Plummer as the deceased.
Craig “sprinkles all 11 herbs and spices onto his Kentucky-fried accent,” writes Liam Maguren, observing “it cleverly anchors the film’s tone: very humorous, a bit preposterous, but always consistent”.
The first act of Rian Johnson’s Knives Out may not appear to be the “whodunnit like no-one’s done it” as the trailer claims. A millionaire (Christopher Plummer) dies. His family members (Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson) are questioned. The detective (Daniel Craig) suspects foul play. When the flashbacks commence, it seems pretty by-the-numbers for the genre. After the initial set-up though, Johnson vigorously and variously swerves the narrative to make this take his own. How does he do it? Well, that’d be spoiling things.
All the actors gobble their roles up, especially those playing the descendants of the dead patriarch looking to get their piece of the will. Curtis commands with an iron spine. Shannon reeks of talentless desperation. Collette channels her inner influencer. And going full douche-lord, Evans couldn’t be happier playing a velociraptor among the wolves.
They’re an assorted set of privileged personalities carrying their own unique brand of asshole when tensions rise. Not only does it make for some damn funny moments of shit-talking, but it also allows an assortment of accusations to keep the central mystery ignited. It’s a shame, however, that It star Jaeden Martell doesn’t get as much screentime as the others since he could’ve challenged Jojo Rabbit‘s Roman Griffin Davis for Cinema’s Best Nazi Youth of 2019.
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Fortunately, Craig couldn’t be better or more adorable as Benoit Blanc. His steely blue-eyed intensity makes him both a compelling interrogator and a comedic force—especially when pontificating about truth and doughnuts. He sprinkles all 11 herbs and spices onto his Kentucky-fried accent, and while it may prove a bit much for some, it cleverly anchors the film’s tone: very humorous, a bit preposterous, but always consistent.
Blade Runner 2049 star Ana de Armas delivers an equally excellent and vital performance as the deceased’s nurse. Without her emotive attachment to Plummer’s millionaire, the heart of the story would be lost, taking most of the suspense with it. But Armas’ star-making turn constantly endears and always engrosses.
Without giving anything away, it’s safe to say the conclusion proves to be a very satisfying one. It takes a hefty amount of inferences and blunt exposition to get there, but like a magician pulling on a very large curtain, it’s a necessary wait to get to the “ta-da!”