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Review: Twists upon twists in Knives Out will keep you guessing til the end, Ars Technica

Review: Twists upon twists in Knives Out will keep you guessing til the end, Ars Technica


    

      Agatha Christie would approve –

             

We can’t tell you much without spoiling the fun, but it’s a must-see film.

      

          –

  

        

Daniel Craig sports a southern accent and plenty of panache as Det. Benoit Blanc in<em>Knives Out</em>.

Enlarge/Daniel Craig sports a southern accent and plenty of panache as Det. Benoit Blanc inKnives Out.

YouTube / Lionsgate

A wealthy family patriarch dies under mysterious circumstances and a brilliant detective suspects foul play inKnives Out, Director Rian Johnson’s terrific postmodern take on the classic whodunnit. Frankly, I can’t tell you much without spoiling the fun — there are twists upon twists upon twists throughout — but the film should be on everybody’s must-see list.

(We are very mindful of spoilers below, apart from brief descriptions of the premise and main characters, and well-known tropes of classic mystery novels.)

It’s not as much of a radical departure for Johnson as it might seem. His debut feature film,Brick( 2005), was a crime drama withfilm noirovertones, largely inspired by the works of Dashiell Hammett and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. (The actor would go on to star in Johnson’s third film, 2012 ‘sLooper. (ForBrick) , Johnson had his actors read Hammett and watch classic screwball comedies likeHis Girl Fridayto bring a lighter touch to the traditionalnoirgenre.

Now, he has brought that same sensibility — mixing dark subject matter with a lighter touch — toKnives Out. ThinkCluemeetsMurder on the Orient Express– or any number of adaptations of novels by the grande dame of murder mysteries, Agatha Christie — both of which the director has cited as influences viaa Twitter threadof movie posters that also includesDeathtrap, Evil Under the Sun, Gosford Park, andMurder by Death.

Knives Outfeatures a premise entirely worthy of Christie. Various extended family members assemble at the family estate to celebrate their patriarch Harlan Thrombey’s (Christopher Plummer) 85 th birthday. Thrombey made his fortune by writing tons of best-selling mystery / thriller novels, and dies unexpectedly later that night under mysterious circumstances. Could it be foul play? Det. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) suspects it might be, and he detains the entire family in the mansion until he completes his investigation. Naturally, the surviving family members are none too happy about this, since they don’t particularly get along.

      

      

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                          It always begins with an isolated manor.

                                                            

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                          Christopher Plummer as family patriarch Harlan Thrombey

                                                            

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                          One of Thrombey’s many novels.

                                                            

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                          Celebrating Thrombey’s 85 th birthday

                                                            

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                          The dysfunctional family assembles

                                                            

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                          Lakeith Stanfield is Det. Lt. Elliot.

                                                            

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                          Daniel Craig sports a Southern accent as Det. Benoit Blanc.

                                                            

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                          Jamie Lee Curtis commands the room as Linda Drysdale, the dead man’s daughter.

                                                            

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                          Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans) has a colorful vocabulary and an insouciant attitude.

                                                            

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                          Walt Thrombey (Michael Shannon) takes umbrage at the suggestion he could be the killer.

                                                            

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                          Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson) has just a hint of smarm.

                                                            

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                          Surely Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell) is too young to be a killer?

                                                            

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                          Another family tableau.

                                                            

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                          Det. Blanc does the carpet crawl to hunt for clues.

                                                            

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                          Looking for more clues.

                                                            

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                          A lethal shot of morphine?

                                                            

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                          A threatening anonymous note

                                                            

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                          A mysterious fire breaks out,

                                                            

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                          Det. Blanc suspects foul play

                                                            

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Johnson has assembled an impressive cast, all of whom deliver top-notch performances. Craig’s southern accent might be initially distracting for those more familiar with his James Bond films, but that fades as one gets caught up in the story. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the deliciously condescending Linda Drysdale, Harlan’s daughter, who likes to humble-brag about building her real estate empire from the ground up. Don Johnson plays her smarmy husband, Richard, while Michael Shannon plays youngest son Walt Thrombey, who has been running his father’s publishing empire.

Other dysfunctional family members include Linda and Richard’s ne’er-do-well son, Ransom (Chris Evans); Harlan’s widowed daughter-in-law, Joni (Toni Collette), a “lifestyle guru”; Joni’s daughter Meg (Katherine Langford), a left-leaning college student; and Walt’s teenaged son Jacob (Jaeden Martell), who spends much of his time online as an alt-right troll. Johnsontold Deadline Hollywoodthat Jacob’s character was inspired by all the online hate he received from angryStar Warsfans forThe Last Jedi.) Also present are the housekeeper, Fran (Edi Patterson), and Harlan’s nurse and primary caretaker, Marta (Ana de Armas), who had the misfortune to discover Harlan’s body.

That’s really all I can say without giving too much away, because Johnson has masterfully plottedKnives Outdown to the very last tiny detail. The clues are all there for sharp-eyed audiences to follow, in fine Christie fashion, along with a fair amount of clever misdirection, perfect pacing, and plenty of sly humor. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, Johnson adds a few more surprising twists, culminating in Benoit’s inevitable dramatic revelation of the truth. Agatha Christie would most definitely approve.

Knives Outhits theaters Wednesday, November 27, 2019, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

                                 

                  

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