Knives Out premiered at the BFI London Film Festival on the 8th of October 2019.
Director Rian Johnson may have just achieved what was unthinkable a few years ago by breathing life into the classic whodunit with Knives Out. After all, while the whodunit has remained popular on TV and streaming services, many of us were wondering whether it would or could ever find its feat again on the big screen. Of course, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been attempts before Knives Out, for example, Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express. But, this was, of course, a remake, and while celebrating the genius of Agatha Christie, it offered audiences little that was new. But while Knives Out pays homage to Christie, P.D James and Rendell, it is also fresh, exciting and addictive viewing. It’s a whodunnit for the 21st century and long overdue.
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In a large sprawling manor house outside Boston, the successful mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) lies dead. The ageing writer’s throat has been slit, and the knife still lies in his cold, stiff hand. The family housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson) discovered the body following Harlan’s 85th Birthday celebrations with Harlan’s guests still sleeping in their rooms. It looks like suicide, but questions remain as the Thrombey family gathers to mourn the passing of their father and grandfather. However, these questions will soon turn to accusations, arguments and scheming as each relation vies to protect their privilege and status.
The family matriarch Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a successful business leader with a less-than-honest husband, Richard (Don Johnson). At the same time, their wayward son Ransom (Chris Evans) is the family’s black sheep and bad boy. Meanwhile, Harlan’s Son Walt (Michael Shannon) is the family publisher, and his Daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette) is the family money sponge.
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Each family member is indebted to and dependent on the wealth Harlan created; however, their lives, beliefs and secrets are about to be placed under the microscope of the famous private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). I am not going to give anything away in this spoiler-free festival review. But Rian Johnson’s delicious screenplay lights up the screen in the hands of a sublime cast as he combines the classic whodunit with a cutting commentary on contemporary American politics. Meanwhile, Daniel Craig creates a new detective who feels like he has been around for years.
But it is not just the delicious performances, screenplay and direction that shine. Steve Yedlin’s cinematography bathes the film in autumnal colour while allowing the Thrombey house to become a character in its own right. Here the walls, stairs, grounds, and rooms breathe with the family’s mystery, deceit, and lies. The result is a glorious whodunit for the modern era, filled with humour, wit, energy and charm that keeps you guessing until the end.
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Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Toni Collette, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Edi Patterson, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Katherine Langford, Michael Shannon, Jaeden Martell, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson, Riki Lindhome, Frank Oz