Welcome to Arkansas Fight’s Film Room, our weekly movie discussion column that help us branch out from covering Arkansas Athletics all the time. You can read last week’s column on Ford vs Ferrari here. This week, we’re discussing Knives Out.
I’ll be honest. I’m a sucker for a whodunnit. Unfortunately for me, that is not exactly the movie du jour and 2017’s remake of Murder On The Orient Express was a pedestrian re-telling of an already well worn story.
Enter Knives Out. Directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper), the film brings back the fun and menace of the whodunnit, winking and nodding to it’s predecessors along the way, without explicitly ripping off any of them.
The whole point of a whodunnit/mystery film is the surprises and twists along the way, so I promise I won’t spoil ANYTHING about this film. That said, I will be discussing general plot points and things about the movie below. If you want to go in completely blind, stop reading here. Otherwise, continue!
After a night celebrating his 85th birthday, mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead in his study from an apparent suicide. (This is not a spoiler. It’s literally in the trailer.)
That draws the attention of not only the local police, but Detective Benoit Blanc, played with an incredible southern drawl by Daniel Craig. Blanc has been hired by a “private patron” who he won’t reveal and neither will I. This isn’t the first time Craig has drawn out his southern proclivities for a role. Check him out in Steven Soderberg’s deep-fried, NASCAR heist movie Logan Lucky for a great example of how effective he can be. Craig really let’s loose in this role, and it’s nice to see him have so much fun, freed from the rigidity that comes from the Bond Universe.
As won’t to do in a film like this, the police’s attention turns to the Thrombey family, who may be the most dysfunctional family this side of Succession. The police, lead by LaKeith Stanfield’s Lieutenant Elliot, seem to think that Blac is overthinking a simple suicide, but allow him to proceed anyway. Stanfield offers a nice straight man to Craig’s Blanc and it’s fun to watch his character constantly trying to keep up with Blanc’s wild gesticulations.
Back to that dysfunctional family. They’re played by a murderer’s row of actors and all of them bring a something incredible to the table. There’s Linda Drysdale (Jaime Lee Curtis), Harlan’s daughter who runs her own real estate company and her husband Richard (Don Johnson, who you might recognize if you’ve been watching Watchmen) who can’t seem to keep it in his pants. His son Walt (Michael Shannon, playing pathetic quite well) runs his late father’s publishing company. Then there’s Joni (Toni Collette) the wife of Harlan’s late son (his death never really given much emotional weight here) who’s running a “life style brand.” Collette is one of the more fun aspects of this film, playing a smart character with just the right amount of “liberal naïveté.” Last, and definitely not least, is Chris Evans as Ransom, Linda and Richard’s son who’s the very clear black-sheep of the family. It’s the first big role Evans has tackled post MCU and it’s fun to watch him play a heel instead of America’s golden boy. Watching him tell his family to “eat shit” is honestly hilarious.
Still with me? Good. There’s one more person you need to know about. That’s Harlan’s personal nurse and friend of the family, Marta (Ana de Armas.) She’s from Paraguay, or Uraguay, or Brazil. Nobody in the family can seem to remember. Blanc takes a liking to her and decides she’s the Watson to his Holmes. Why? It may be due in part to the fact that Marta can’t lie without literally throwing up. Do with that what you will. Several people use it to their advantage throughout the film.
de Armas and Craig’s chemistry is a real propeller of the film and their scenes together are a very nice time to watch on screen. When the big mid-film twist hits, it sends them both on a furious chase together that was one of the most fun second halves of a film I’ve seen this year.
Knives Out is a movie that appears to give you all of the answers up front. My internal monologue was “surely it’s not that easy.” It wasn’t. I thought I had it figured 3 separate times— I was wrong on all counts. And for that, I couldn’t be more grateful. See if you can figure out who did it. No matter what, Johnson’s taking you on a ride. I doubt you’ll end up where you thought you would.
Knives Out is now playing in theaters.
Thanks for reading Arkansas Fight’s Film Room! We’re looking forward to talking movies with Razorback nation. If there’s an older movie you want us to revisit hit us up in the comments. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast. You can chat movies and bad sports takes with Saul anytime by following him on Twitter at @SaulMalone. For mini movie reviews, you can follow Saul on Letterboxd.