Review: Knives Out
This murder mystery is masterfully crafted.
Knives Out is director Rian Johnson's most recent directorial adventure, after Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This film is entirely different than the previous one, if you are hesitant to watch another one of Johnson's films.
I'll admit, I was hesitant. But upon watching Knives Out I discovered that, this movie is Johnson at his finest. The Clue-esque murder mystery does not take itself too seriously, instead, it plays with the tropes of the genre in a delightful way. While the movie is over two hours, the pacing doesn't feel like a drag, and it keeps the audience entertained.
The cast certainly stands out. It is star studded, but not in the way some ensemble pieces can seem. This was not a movie that wanted to say,"Look how many stars I have!" Each actor is perfectly cast in their role, including the upcoming Ana De Armas as our protagonist, Marta Cabera. It was wonderful to see Daniel Craig play a Sherlock Holmes type, while taking on a more sophisticated version of the Southern accent that he put on for Logan Lucky. Jaime Lee Curtis shines as always and Lakeith Stanfield is a show stealer. Of course, the internet was abuzz about Chris Evans and his cozy sweaters, so I have to mention him. But it was his dramatic playing against type that really took me by surprise in this film.
The dialogue in the movie feels very real. While some movies try too hard to capture what a real person sounds like to the point where it sounds fake, the dialogue here sounded like something I could actually hear someone on the street say.
For example: "I will not eat one iota of shit!" produced a laugh out of me.
And another favorite: “Who would blow up a whole real building just to blackmail me?” Just excellent.
The cinematography and editing work seamlessly together to diversify the interview scenes. A large portion of the film is the police interviewing the Throughby family, which could be done wrong very easily. Johnson and his team cleverly mesh the interviews together so that they never feel boring.
The set pieces are phenomenal. Johnson also clearly paid attention to his English classes and utilizes Chekov's gun beautifully. There is not one costume detail, not one piece of set decoration, that isn't serving a purpose. Each character is even color coded, wearing the same color palette for the duration of the movie. Every single piece of this movie is so delicately intertwined that it would be impossible to separate anything from it without the entire thing unraveling like Ransom's (Evans) comfy sweaters.
While I loved the movie, it is not without it's flaws. All movies have them and they are always worth discussing.
There are a few drawbacks to the large cast. They do not get equal screen time or development and I felt that certain characters/actors deserved more screen time. One of the most notable is Stanfield's Lt. Elliot. He's the only non-white member of law enforcement that we see in this New England town and he doesn't get a lot of time to shine, or even to interact with the other minority members of the cast.
And because the cast is so large and some members go undeveloped, the culprit is rather predictable. Threads of interesting plot points are touched upon and then left out in the cold, like the internet activities of the teenage boy. And because the characters are undeveloped, many of them can sometimes feel like caricatures, 2D models in an otherwise living breathing world. (Although, you could certainly argue that is in the spirit of the genre.)
On that note, there are not many likable characters who are not Marta, Craig's Blanc, or the other law enforcement characters. It's hard to keep an audience on their toes when they don't like the majority of the cast and I personally would have found the film just a tad more thrilling if I could have grown fond of more of the family members.
Last comment for this section: Why in the world was vomit a plot point? Why? It's just immature, and gross and I feel like something else could have been used to serve the purpose that it served. Just. Ew.
I highly recommend this film. It is fun and that is one of the most important parts of entertainment. It is colorful and pretty to look at, reminding me that Johnson is an excellent visual story teller. And the story it weaves touches upon political issues delicately and all the while,keeps you hooked and asking,"Who did it?"