With a current 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, I almost don’t know why you are bothering to read this review!
But let’s kick this off by saying, what a cast! And, what a story! Knives Out feels unique in this day and age of visual effects and epic wow shots, each greater than the last, in that the film relies entirely on the story and its telling by the cast. Writer-Director Rian Johnson doesn’t stop at a well told story either. He puts each of his actors under a close microscope where even a small flaw in the performance could find its unveiling.
Every character is relatable in some way, and yes I dare to say that! Also, believable. Under the hood, they are not good humans, but they are not bad humans either.
The comedy within the storytelling hangs almost entirely on Daniel Craig’s character, Benoit Blanc – super sleuth and private detective. The character works well, elevating the story from being “just drama”.
I have a footnote to add here. I’m a Daniel Craig fan, and while his drawling American accent irritated me, I could find no flaw in it, and Rian Johnson’s closely directed love of tight camera framing had me even more enthralled with his bright blue eyes than the first time I fell in love with him on screen in Layer Cake 15 years ago.
The clever marriage of cinematography to the performance of each actor showed a transparency in the storytelling. As Benoit Blaine and the state troopers bring each suspect into interrogation, in parallel the camera lens is interrogating each actor’s performance.
The performances are notable in their cliche, stereotype realism (yes I’m going to call it that), from the irascible author-publisher tycoon Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), to semi-self-made daughter (Jamie Lee Curtis), freeloading widow (Toni Collette), and the black sheep of the family (Chris Evans), to name but a few. Even the subtle, sweet determination and resourcefulness of Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) the unwilling chess piece who arrives on the scene in the form of Harlan’s South American immigrant nurse, is outstanding.
I liked it. Really liked it, it’s almost as though with the switch of cinema to television (sorry, I mean streaming — hello Disney+), and only an elite few films making the cut for theatrical release, that we are also somehow pushing television to cinema, with classic whodunnit tales escaping the likes of CSI, NCIS, and Luther to dominate the silver screen, a la this sordid tale and it’s forerunner, Netflix’ “Murder Mystery”. Oh, wait, sorry, that was for streaming too.
Knives Out is clever but not so clever it becomes unbelievable, funny but not so funny it becomes comedy. It’s blatant but also subtle. Ten out of ten for good storytelling on the actors and excellent capture of their performances in detail through the camera.
Unravel the mystery of Knives Out in cinema on November 27th.
Written by @jrmanawa