There is a moment in Rian Johnson’s exquisite new whodunnit Knives Out where a character makes an amusing reference to the popular Hallmark murder mysteries. It is one of several sly pop culture markers that permeate the film. Comically showing how the genre has been swimming in shallow formulaic waters, Johnson reminds us that his film is taking a different stream. He wants to bring murder mysteries back to their thrilling roots.
When renowned mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead on his 85th birthday, it sends shock waves through the entire family. A seemingly tight and loving unit, one where even Harlan’s personal nurse Marta (Ana de Armas) is seen as part of the family, cracks in the clan’s façade begin to surface when Southern detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) suspects foul play. As Blanc and two local cops (LaKeith Stanfield, Noah Segan) dig deeper into the case, it quickly becomes apparent that everyone in the family is harbouring secrets.
Featuring wonderful performances from an ensemble cast that also includes Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon and Toni Collette, to name a few, Knives Out is a delightful entertaining romp. Craig is especially charming as the detective who may not be as sharp as his reputation leads everyone to believe. Johnson’s rich characters allow for a mystery so intricate that one will want to immediately watch Knives Out again to catch some of the subtle clues sprinkled throughout.
While the film’s mystery pulls from several references, including the works of Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock, the most surprising aspect of Knives Out is how in tune it is with the political climate of today. The film is unafraid to shine a light on the hypocrisy of the wealthy. Johnson confidently takes pointed aim at the supposed self-made individuals that received a million dollars from their parents to start their own businesses. The ones who happily employ undocumented immigrants and then turn around and support political parties that want to build walls rather than address the issue of immigration in a productive way.
Filled with biting social commentary, but never getting bogged down by it, Knives Out is a fun and intelligent whodunnit that will keep you guessing to the very end.