Whodunit. A genre that’s dying in movies, but has seen an unprecedented rise on tv. I am not exactly sure why that has happened. One explanation could be that audiences, nowadays, are more interested in watching “big eventful films” on in theaters. Whodunits are generally slow-burning and requires patience. That also explains why they are so popular on tv which allows viewers to be more flexible with how they want to use their time. I, personally, have loved watching whodunits in any form. But if you are one of those who had given up on the genre, ‘Knives Out’ will completely make you fall in love with it again.
Rian Johnson made his debut with ‘Brick’, but really broke into the scene in 2013 with the sci-fi classic ‘Looper’. He then went on to make ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ that released in 2017. With ‘Knives Out’, which he also wrote, he has exceeded the high standards he has set for himself. Yes, his latest him is also by far his best. What he does so well in ‘Knives Out’ is that he mixes humor with mystery with effortless ease. In fact, there is not a single dull moment in the film. It’s fast-paced and keeps you guessing till the last-minute, with a healthy dose of surprises and twists. Beyond making a murder mystery highly entertaining, the most extraordinary aspect of the film is that it closes out everything perfectly — meaning the film does not leave you with open questions or loopholes hard to find answers to. The bane of most “who’s the killer” movies is that there are just too many unanswered questions in the end. But not in ‘Knives Out’! It’s a perfect whodunit, if it is possible to make one.
‘Knives Out’ revolves around the murder of Harlan Thrombrey, a wealthy crime novelist. Thrombrey had invited his extended dysfunctional family to his mansion on his 85th birthday in hopes of reuniting them all, but next morning, Harlan is found dead by the family nurse. A private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is called to investigate the case. Soon enough, everyone in the family becomes a suspect.
Johnson clearly seems to be inspired from Agatha Christie novels and British murder mysteries like ‘Godford Park’ and ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ that keep the tone comical, instead of dark and gloomy. ‘Knives Out’, too, is extremely funny, and keeps the proceedings light even when the events on-screen are serious. Kudos to Johnson for such brilliant writing. What will also not go amiss to anyone is that the film is a satire on Trump’s anti-immigration policy. In fact, Johnson makes it blatantly obvious by making its lead protagonist as a Latino American born to illegal immigrants. He doesn’t stop there. The whole set up and plot of the film is an allegory of Trump’s rhetoric on keeping immigrants out of the country. Miraculously, all of it works!
Daniel Craig is excellent in the role of a quirky detective. It’s great to see him having fun with a role that’s almost anti-Bond in the way it makes him look silly. Ana de Armas is also great in a film that revolves around her character. And the funny thing is she will be seen again with Daniel Craig in the next James Bond film ‘No Time to Die’. It will be interesting to see how that dynamics plays out, especially when ‘Knives Out’ is so much about the interplay between Craig and Armas’ characters. The real casting masterstroke, though, is Chris Evans in the role of Harlan’s spoiled grandson. To see him play a brat after Captain America is oddly refreshing.