There’s a saying, that all good things come to those who wait. In this case, waiting doesn’t mean a week, a month, or even a year. When it came to the production of Knives Out, it took director Rian Johnson ten years to allow his riveting mystery movie to marinate. The first scene of the film was pitched a decade ago; now, it thrives on a theatrical level.
After the gathering of outlandish extended family for his 85th birthday celebration, wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead in his home, an aged Victorian mansion brimming with curiosity, and the pressing question of just how the well-off writer was killed unleashes chaos in its wake. The game is afoot once detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) works close at hand with the police, and they kick off their investigation. Greed, blame, and humiliation is drawn out of the family woodworking once the truth is sought after.
The Thrombey family is composed of colorful characters that are sure to stand out from one another. Strong personalities are strikingly distinguished, shrewdly designed and carefully crafted enough that just anyone can be a suspect. There are tastes of present-day political commentary that are purposely placed in some character traits. These little gives are tastefully done, astutely setting subtle increments into motion as they play a larger role as the story progresses. Each partygoer is up for question as there’s enough suspicion that generously leaves room for second-guessing. The offbeat family sits prominently placed under Blanc’s persistent pressure. In the midst of the excitement, Harlan’s personal nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) is set into the spotlight, hiding secrets of her own.
Knives Out is an inventive re-evaluation of the classic board game “Clue.” Right from its get-go, it masterfully captures attention, ready to dive into gripping secrecy that sinks its teeth into the captivating conundrum. Cracking down on the killer takes center stage in this mystery, but Knives Out fails to miss a comedic beat. The timing is impeccable and the film keeps itself wholly engaged. The balance between tender smatterings of family moments and comedic streaks is not only fluid but flatter each other in the most agreeable manner. Knives Out can be sophisticatedly self-conscious, still and all, it prides itself on being genuinely fun. Pulling influences from Agatha Christie’s novels, this effervescent spin on classic fiction burbles with engrossing amusement.
This fresh brainteaser is crafted with many-sided twists that throw itself off of its own trail and veers into sharply unpredictable territory. When Knives Out plays with the long-awaited “gotcha” moment, it picks itself up again and keeps itself nimbly keen-witted. The storytelling is smart and fitly self-aware. An intricate web of doubts, truths, motives, and lies are woven with an attentive hand. Everything happens for a reason, and artful fallback on foreshadowing is done with ambitious proficiency. The dots connect themselves, the clues are hidden in plain sight. Just as teased by Harlan early on, “you can’t tell the difference between a stage prop and a real knife.”
Verdict: 10/10 – Knives Out is an excellently melodramatic modern-day murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. It’s a charming, eccentric, prudent puzzler that is brave enough to become all the more thrilling.