Cast: Ana de Armas, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Lakeith Stanfield.
Written and Directed by: Rian Johnson Length: 130mins.
‘Knives Out’ is a whodunit murder mystery from director Rian Johnson, which brings us into the home of the Thrombey’s, an auspicious and privileged family that garnered their success from the murder-mystery writings of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), the family’s supposedly eldest member. To ensure no spoilers, the key points of the story that I investigate within this review can all be found within the film’s trailers, as this is a film that should definitely be seen with as little prior knowledge as possible.
Perhaps the clearest element in which this film excels is the stylisation that’s maintained throughout. From the very opening shot, ‘Knives Out’ incorporates a brilliantly inventive use of cinematography, editing and mise-en-scene to further the drama of the story, as well as incorporating more implicit themes of privacy, trust and family. Furthermore, the status of each character is either emphasised or undermined as a result of the cinematography, allowing the audience to begin to gather their own opinions on each member of the family, encouraging a form of detective work that most viewers will be attempting going into a film like this. It’s very clear that Johnson understands the genre in which he is working in with ‘Knives Out,’ and as a result the mystery elements of the story are effectively told through the visual elements of film form.
I don’t think that I could properly review this film without mentioning the cast. Featuring a wide array of extremely talented actors and actresses, ‘Knives Out’ creates a family of performers who all serve the purpose within the narrative effectively. Daniel Craig plays detective Benoit Blanc in a way that J.B. Priestley would be proud of, and Ana de Armas also fulfils her role as the caretaker brilliantly (again, don’t want to say too much). Chris Evans provides a few lines that are slightly cringe-worthy, but aside from that is successful in his portrayal as the complex Ransom. However, I did feel that at times the fame of the cast slightly hindered the story, as there are so many performers that you wished had more screen time, but weren’t fitted into the two hours and ten minutes run time. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the intriguing Linda Drysdale, but lacks any key scenes as the film progresses. Toni Collette’s Joni Thrombey faces a similar problem, however she does still retain her title as possibly the coolest person alive. Overall though, the characters effectively tell their sides of the story, as well as providing a comedic side to the film.
Finally, the most important element of a whodunit is the plot itself. In ‘Knives Out’ the story keeps you guessing throughout and frequently subverts your expectations. With such a great number of characters involved in the story, you never know what the conclusion may be, and as a result the final act features an exciting ending. Straying away from anything that could lead to spoilers, I want to focus more on the relationship between the character of Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) and the Thrombey household. Harlan Thrombey’s caretaker, Cabrera is a key element within the story, and through her status as the daughter of a South American immigrant, Johnson investigates a more subliminal idea within ‘Knives Out’ – Americas perception of anyone who could be considered as an immigrant. Frequently patronised by the family and told that “we’ll look after you,” Cabrera’s ethnicity very clearly influences how those around perceive her, and she often unwillingly becomes a part of whatever political discussion the family are having – whether that be border control or illegal immigration.
Though this is a film that focuses on the death of Harlan Thrombey and the mysterious circumstances that surround it, and can often appear as a comedic and entertainment-focused piece of cinema, I think that when watching ‘Knives Out’ it’s important to consider a more implicit level of symbolism that Rian Johnson attempts to convey. Go and see the film, enjoy the drama of the story, and immerse yourself in the world of ‘Knives Out.’