By Kevin Hoskinson
Knives Out is the type of mainstream film that isn’t released very often anymore. It’s a character-driven movie, one that depends solely on the performances and the script. Luckily, director Rian Johnson has put together an incredible story and a fantastic cast of actors and actresses to bring his vision to life.
When wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) invites his family to his remote mansion for his 85th birthday party, things go horribly awry when he is found dead in the morning. Detective Lieutenant Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) is called in to investigate, as well as master private eye Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). With everyone a suspect, anyone who attended the party is investigated, sometimes with hilarious and deadly results.
This is the type of film that you should go into as blind as possible. Rian Johnson has written a story that is a big puzzle. There are times when it all seems clear, and you think you have it all figured out, only to reveal that there is a piece in the middle that is missing. It’s like playing the most mysterious game of Clue you can imagine, with the world’s best players. It’s like putting your keys on the counter and not finding them seconds later, only to see them in the freezer. That is the kind of movie that Johnson has created, and it’s the cast that makes it work.
While the film is filled with veteran actors, the real star of the film is Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera, Harlan’s nurse, and caretaker. She has the most impactful and emotional arc in the story. The movie doesn’t shy away from its political message, and her family being immigrants is a very crucial and important start of her story. She carries most of the film on her shoulders, and she does it with a very nuanced and sharp performance.
Daniel Craig, as a southern private eye, is an inspired choice. The way he brings Blanc to life is outstanding; he plays the part like he was born for it. People tend to forget how great of an actor Craig is, and I’m happy he’s able to remind people with roles like this. Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Edi Patterson round out the amazingly sharp cast.
The direction by Johnson is nothing without his career-long cinematographer Steve Yedlin. They have worked together since Brick, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi was their last outing together. Yedlin has an excellent eye for capturing the room while also focusing on what we need to be watching. There is one shot in particular that blew my mind, and I can only imagine how they pulled it off.
Knives Out is a film that is one of a kind, especially in today’s landscape. I’m not here to get into the debate of what kind of movies are considered “cinema” anymore, but this has a particular quality to it, one that I would call “cinema.” On the surface, it’s a simple story, but underneath, it is very complex. It’s filled with twists and turns and forces you to use your brain. This movie is something special, and I urge you to go see it with an audience if possible. It’s great!
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Kevin Hoskinson is a writer with a deep-seeded love for movies, comic books, television and the paranormal. From humble beginnings working the box office at his local movie theater, he’s worked his way to becoming a humble family man and professional bug exterminator. Growing up, he wanted to become an astronaut, a Ghostbuster, a dinosaur, and a Disney animator before he found his passion for writing as a teen. He studied film at Los Angeles Valley College with an emphasis on screenwriting and film criticism. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and two kids. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter @Kevin_Hoskinson, and Instagram @kevinhoskinson.