Knives Out (2019) successfully cuts the tension with humor only to do it all over again

Rian Johnson is a director whose work I’ve been a big fan of. When the trailer dropped for Knives Out (2019), it instantly became one of my most anticipated of the year – and for twice in two weeks, I wasn’t disappointed. This quirky mystery is full of great characters played by great actors and shot by a filmmaker who clearly has a strong sense of style in terms of storytelling and visual composition. Knives Out is definitely a film that rewards the viewer for coming to the theater to see it, rather than waiting to watch it on the small screen. 

Famed mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) has left his family in shambles after his sudden suicide. Well…at least it is initially declared a suicide, but the appearance of Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) begs the question as to the actual circumstances surrounding his death. He recruits Harlan’s nurse, Marta Cabrera, (Ana de Armas) as his own Doctor Watson – mostly because she’s equipped with an ailment that prohibits her from telling a lie…or at least one that lets everyone around know she was doing so. 

There is so much to discuss about Knives Out. The difficult part about this is deciding what to include or what to leave out, as this film wants to keep you guessing as it is a whodunnit story. Johnson employs his ability to craft excellent characters here, and his innate attention to detail is utilized with great success in this film. The attentive viewer will find much to digest, and Johnson rewards them for it. Additionally, the nature of this story allows the talented cast to become larger than life caricatures – and it’s just a lot of fun. 

Craig is fantastic, but there isn’t a performance not to love. LaKeith Stanfield has become one of my go-to actors, as I love his ability to just bring a sense of naturalism to any role he has. Even in this movie where so many characters are big, he is able to ground his character and becomes almost an audience surrogate at times. Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Katherine Langford, and Jaeden Martell all deliver memorable and strong performances – but the really impressive one comes from Ana de Armas. I’ve seen her in a few other films, but she is the surprise protagonist in this film despite the impressive cast list. More to her credit, she is a stand out amongst the other performances, and that is saying something. 

Knives Out is most certainly a movie that speaks to my tastes and sensibilities. I will absolutely be watching this one again, and probably end up teaching it at some point. There is a section of people who are misguided in their opinion of Last Jedi and may boycott this film simply because of their resentment of Rian Johnson…please don’t deprive yourself of excellent cinema. Knives Out earns the Must See rating.

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