Knives Out movie cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer
Knives Out movie director: Rian Johnson
Knives Out movie rating: 3.5 stars
An old country house full of curios and creaking stairs; scores of relatives and a man who controls their destinies; and a murder. Who doesn’t like a good old mystery like that?
Johnson writes and directs this story, set in Agastha Christie mould, with fewer twists than one expects. The centrality of its surprise, in fact, lies in how simple and straightforward it is. It may not give you the thrills of having solved a crime ahead of the filmmakers, but the film might just reinforce your faith in the goodness of hearts, without the burden of any deep-set sociological analysis. Plus, Knives Out clearly wants to do well with its politics at a time of Donald Trump, delivering a rather on-the-nose message about nice immigrants and seeming-to-be-nice Americans.
That it all goes down so smoothly has to do well with the cast of Knives Out — with Craig, Curtis, Collette and Plummer, especially, slipping into their roles with relish. Craig is a private detective by the mouth-watering name of Benoit Blanc, who keeps a watch on the goings-on of the house from the comforts of an armchair in a corner, smoke drifting up from the end of his cigar, but is as quickly down on his knees to observe a carpet for mud marks. “The last of the gentleman sleuths” is how one character describes him. Craig plays Blanc with a thick accent, an affected Hercule Poirot manner, and a growing sense of outrage.
Plummer is lord of the manor Harlan Thrombey, a best-selling mystery books writer who has been found with his throat slashed in “suspected” suicide. His appearances are brief but this is a role Plummer can master in his sleep, and he doesn’t disappoint.
Collette is his floaty daughter-in-law Joni, who makes skincare products but sees herself as more of a woke lifestyle guru; Curtis is his eldest child, Linda, a hard-nosed real-estate mogul. Curtis chews the scenes she is in. The others, including Evans (a bit too much of a cliche as the wasted rich playboy), play a houseful of Harlan’s relatives.
The odd one out is Marta (Armas), who was Harlan’s nurse/care giver, and was the last one to see him alive. In true manner of well-meaning rich people, the Thrombeys all go out of their way to insist that Marta is “like family”. And yet, none of them knows which country she comes from, just some South American one — Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, are some options on offer.
When the chips begin to fall, and it’s not a real surprise how they do, family secrets are revealed, frictions surface, masks are dropped, and the knives come out. However, little blood is spilled, even as the film leaves you with the tantalising possibility that the last may not have been heard of the Thrombeys and Monsieur Blanc.