Before Rian Johnson became Mr. Last Jedi, he made the wonderful indie movies that are The Brothers Bloom and Brick and while he might not be returning to that arena any time soon, Knives Out feels like a good compromise between fanboy blockbuster and indie. A good old fashioned murder mystery is the name of this game, renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is drafted in to help find out what really happened to famous author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) and with a family like his, there’s plenty of suspects. Potentially one of the best ensemble casts of 2019, the film also features: Ana de Armas, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stansfield, Jaeden Martell and Katherine Langford.
Let’s get one of the most obvious things out of the way first, Daniel Craig and his southern drawl, for anyone who has a distaste for awful accents in film, this was one to be wary of but in pleasant news, it’s unsurprisingly ridiculous and surprisingly enjoyable, mostly for the fact they’re self aware of how over the top it really is. That quality is a fairly accurate example of the film as a whole, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and makes way for a film that’s genuinely fun. It’s clear that Johnson hasn’t lost his touch or let toxic fans dampen his talent because there’s so much style and energy to Knives Out that it’s contagious, you can’t help getting into the spirit of things.
A murder mystery is always a tricky thing to do well, either you leave everything to the last minute or it’s plainly obvious who did it but here there’s a nice trickling out of the plot, it’s paced well and it does have some surprises in store. The writing is witty and funny, there’s a lot more laughs than you’d expect running throughout the film, it sticks to its comedy roots and doesn’t get bogged down too much in becoming a thriller but does give you that classic detective feel of clues and deduction. A lot of that classic feel is down to Craig’s performance as Benoit Blanc, a name that’s relentlessly fun to say, he’s a fantastic character whose stereotypical aloof attitude is extremely entertaining and creates a lot of irritation for the other characters which is fun to watch. Being an ensemble film, the chemistry between actors is of the utmost importance, throwing a group of people together who clash on screen is something no-one wants to watch but inevitably with this stunning cast, they work wonderfully together. Toni Collette, Chris Evans and Michael Shannon stand out as hugely energetic performances, particularly the first two as they’re playing characters so far from their usual selves but Ana de Armas is the real star.
Armas is an actress that you may recognise but not be totally familiar with, she’s had roles in films like War Dogs, Knock Knock and Hands of Stone, but anyone who’s seen Blade Runner 2049 will remember her as Ryan Gosling’s holographic companion, Joi. Armas’s performance is utterly scene stealing, a breakout role and involves an unexpectedly hilarious amount of throwing up. Perhaps the only disappointing thing about this ensemble is it’s a severe under-use of the wonderful LaKeith Stansfield, he’s relegated to the side-lines unfortunately. Don’t worry about Jamie Lee Curtis though, she may not feel like she’s out front with this film but she’s as dependable as ever, her sarcasm, costumes and dead stare are much to be appreciated, she is a woman that projects a lot of confidence and that comes out in spades with this character.
Knives Out decidedly runs in the opposite direction of films such as Valentine’s Day and Collateral Beauty, where having a large number of good actors just ends up in justice for no-one, each and every actor gets their moment in the sun and it’s wholeheartedly enjoyable to see such a brilliant band of actors work so well together. Other than Ready or Not, it feels like cinema these days rarely has an outing that’s purely about the audience having a good time, there’s no heavy emotion or thought-provoking events to this film, it doesn’t ask anything of you, other than to sit back and enjoy yourself and really, the less you think and try figure it out, the more fun you’ll have. Johnson’s next project may be another foray into the Star Wars universe but fingers crossed he’ll be coming back down to earth again soon. This film is stylish, fun and seriously entertaining so it’s definitely worth a trip to the cinema.