There’s a lengthy history of the “Who Done It”, not only in Hollywood cinema, but in literature. It is a classic. Writers like Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler each made their mark on the genre, turning it into the behemoth it would become. The years may may change, the detectives may be different, but a good old fashioned murder mysteries still draw readers and audiences alike. This week, Rian Johnson drops Knives Out, producing a brand new spin on the age old formula. What do you need to know before checking out his new movie?
Knives Out is best described as a throwback to the classic detective novels of the 1920s… think of the novels of someone like Agatha Christie. In the narrative, Johnson crafts a savvy modernization of what can be a decidedly tricky genre. Read on, gentle readers.
Knives Out follows the Thrombey family after patriarch Harlan (Christopher Plummer) is discovered dead in a grisly crime scene. Who murdered the wealthy old man? Well, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is on the case to investigate the rather…colorful… family. As usual, almost everyone has a motive, most have means, and many had the opportunity. So there are a host of suspects. The movie features an all-star cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon and LaKeith Stanfield. Rian Johnson directs the film from his own script.
Rian Johnson firmly establish himself as one of the most exciting young filmmakers in Hollywood today. He came out of the gate fast and hard with the brilliant Brick in 2004, and he continues to impress with each directorial effort. Knives Out is absolutely no different. Johnson is an immensely brave director, fueled by his passions, and unafraid to tackle what others might perceive as a gamble. In the movie, he continues his trend of smart and well-researched works which still manage to incorporate the high-gloss of Hollywood blockbusters. However, what is also increasingly clear, he’s also a film fan. This is paramount.
In Johnson’s hands, the film even takes a step beyond what it could be. This is thanks to his interplay with his immensely talented cast. It is the characters they craft which elevate Knives Out to a new level.
Toni Collette continues to establish herself as a Hollywood treasure with her portrayal of new-agey misfit Joni. Each role the actress takes on is so vastly different— let’s face it… we don’t deserve her. Meanwhile, Chris Evans elevates himself to a new place— one we usually don’t see from the former Captain America— and it’s oh-so-fun to watch on-screen.
If Knives Out struggles anywhere, it is perhaps with a few pacing issues. However, this is a bit par-for-the-course with this genre. Johnson takes an updated twist on the detective genre— laying out the course of events very early in the script as the payoff is somewhat shifted. The answers become clear into the second act, but it isn’t simply the narrative selling the story, but these amazing characters. It’s a bit of a struggle to go into much details without giving away spoilers… so, I’m not giving you much here
Ultimately, Knives Out is yet another film which demonstrates that Rian Johnson is one of the smartest most interesting directors currently working in Hollywood. The murder mystery shows the young director’s ability to craft an entertaining story; while his passion shines through the story vibrantly, paying homage to the generations of storytellers who came before.
Knives Out opens in theaters this week.