By Christian Tsadilas
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, “Knives Out” hit theaters on Nov. 19, and it brought the classic murder mystery story into 2019.
The film follows the investigation of the death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a wealthy crime novelist and the patriarch of his family.
In the beginning, housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson) finding Thrombey dead in his study after an apparent suicide on the day after he had a party with his entire family for his 85th birthday.
The mansion in which the story takes place is fascinating, as it is an old, ornate building with creaky stairs and rooms that are decorated with puppets and a large portrait of Thrombey. But the decoration that draws the most attention is a large ring of knives in the living room. Soon after Thrombey’s death, his family and friends are called to the house to be questioned by the police about the night of his party.
The Thrombley family is portrayed as white, wealthy and elite. The combination of the setting and characters is reminiscent of classic whodunit movies, as well as the boardgame Clue. Johnson bases the film within this classic murder-mystery setting.
However, he adds a spin, exploring the setting within the context of 2019, particularly immigration. When the family is having a political discussion while Thombrey’s nurse, Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) is in the room, the scene references the election of President Donald Trump — whom much of the family supports — and children who are detained at the border.
The film also comments on privilege and accessibility, such as with the character Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), Thombrey’s daughter, who boasts of building her real estate business from the ground up by herself early in the film. However, her son later reveals that she was given a $1 million dollar loan from her father, a nod to Trump’s infamous quote.
“Knives Out” especially excels due to its fabulous cast. With stunning performances by de Armas and Daniel Craig, who plays detective Benoit Blanc, the actors shine in their roles, as they each add a different element that creates great interactions between the characters.
While de Armas’ subdued acting illuminates the Cabrera’s kindness, making it easy to sympathize with her, Craig’s eccentric portrayal of Blanc creates an entertaining juxtaposition. Craig’s exaggerated southern accent, use of giant cigars and bold personality are perfect presentations of dichotomy to Cabrera. The clash of the two personalities makes for effective comedy as well as tender moments, which is helped by the clear chemistry between de Armas and Craig.
Another factor that makes “Knives Out” such a worthwhile flick is Johnson’s outstanding writing and directing. The script is creative and hilarious, as it uses subdued comedy at exactly the right moments to pack the most punch.
Every scene succeeds at pushing the plot along, thus making the story streamlined and allowing for a captivating mystery to stand out at the center of the film, which gives the audience a satisfying ending.
With the actors’ exceptional performances and a touch of commentary within this intriguing mystery, “Knives Out” is easily one of the best movies of the year.