‘Knives Out’ Delivers a Sharp Take on the Whodunit Film Genre With a Solid Ensemble Cast

Rian Johnson's Knives Out is easily one of the best mainstream films of 2019.




Knives Out stays true to the look, feel, and intrigue of old murder mysteries while replacing cliches and tropes with an intelligent plot that really starts to get your brain gears moving in the second act. More than just a whodunit, Rian Johnson delivers a creative cinematic masterpiece with Knives Out, worthy of notice from the Academy for Writing, Directing, and so much more. The ensemble cast works well together with fluidity and chemistry that feels natural and consistent from start to finish. Daniel Craig positions himself as a southern PI perfectly, while the rest of the cast individually portray their greed and air-headedness successfully.

Wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey invites his family to his mansion for his 85th birthday party. The next morning, Harlan’s housekeeper finds him dead, apparently having slit his own throat. An anonymous party pays a private detective to unravel a seemingly intricate web of deception, greed, and suspected foul play.

This past holiday weekend was one filled with good food, great company, and endless entertainment in many forms and various mediums. Among them, was the opportunity to sit down with friends and family and enjoy a screening of Rian Johnson’s Knives Out.

Not necessarily a fan of murder-mysteries flicks, I can’t say I have ever experienced a film in the whodunit genre that wasn’t, at the very least, entertaining and full of intrigue. But as someone who is not a fan, I can’t say that I have seen too many. Knives Out will have forever changed that for me.

Knives Out is a movie that I can’t go into depth with due to the sensitive nature of the plot. There is nothing I feel I am capable of describing without ruining some portion of the film’s air of mystery, as it were. So, let’s stick with a very top-down style of review regarding key components of what makes this movie thrive.

The story is an original, written by Rian Johnson, who you probably know very well by know as the writer and director of The Last Jedi. Regardless of what you feel about that movie, I would advise you to just put those feelings aside and go in with an open mind. Rian Johnson is a phenomenal writer when it comes to unique and original stories of his own, which is exactly what Knives Out is- a fun, well-crafted, and full of thought-provoking material that will stimulate your senses.

The cast is chalked full of talent and recognizable faces- all of which are notable in some way, but it would be a disservice not to acknowledge Daniel Craig’s stealing of the show here. His southern accent and animated presence are where many of the highlights come from and is worthy of at the very least, an Oscar nomination.

The only standouts for me that keep this film from being closer to perfect are the cinematography and the music, the latter of which is forgettable and nothing more than just an additive to build on the tone of the movie. This is all the music meant to be, but I felt like it could have been more. I always enjoy walking out of a movie and humming a tune from a memorable score.

As for the cinematography, there were some pleasant shots and wonderful scenes, but the lighting lacked in some moments and often felt dull. I get that this is such a mundane thing that it should come across quite clear that I have very little negative critiques of Knives Out. The movie was pretty damn close to a perfect murder-mystery, at least I strongly would campaign it as such.

The bottom line is this- the cast, the writing, the performances, and the intrigue are all here, and there is very little that isn’t. Knives Out is witty, fun, and a great theater-going experience. Do yourself a favor and see it as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Knives Out stars Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.

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