Score: 6 of 7 – Knives Out is easily the best and most enjoyable mysteries to come along since the recent remake of Murder on the Orient Express, and that’s not just because it’s pretty much the only mystery film to come out since then. It’s smart, funny, twisty, compelling, quirky, and oh so enjoyable. Like any murder mystery, it’s not exactly kid friendly, and has it’s far share of (hilarious) use of some language, but for anyone looking for a good who-dunit that will keep them guessing, Knives Out is a must see.
Knives Out is a classic caper, a delightful who-dunit, and a marvelous mystery. It harkens back to the eras of Christie and Doyle and Hillerman and whoever your favorite mystery author might be. It’s a twisty tale full of surprises, and even when you think you might know what’s going on, eventually the rug will be pulled out from beneath you and you’ll realize you weren’t quite as observant as you thought. Hopefully, with a film like this and the recent remake of Murder on the Orient Express, the mystery genre might enjoy a bit of a revival. However, even if it doesn’t, at least we have Knives Out, a can’t-miss caper with one of the most satisfying endings I’ve seen in a movie in quite some time.
The tricky part of a movie like Knives Out, which is almost entirely dialogue driven and pretty much set in a single location (essentially, it’s a big-screen play) is not only do you need sharp and engaging writing, but you also need a strong cast to deliver that dialogue well. Knives Out shines in this area as everyone here not only puts on a fantastic performance, but also seem to clearly be enjoying themselves as they essentially get to play out a giant version of the game Clue (which also had an excellent movie made about it). Daniel Craig is stellar in his role as the eccentric consulting detective (nice nod to Holmes with that particular term). However, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Shannon and Don Johnson and Christopher Plummer all are fantastic and mesmerizing. Ana de Armas is excellent as the family outsider who gets caught up in circumstances beyond her control and serves as our surrogate into the world this family and the mystery they find themselves embroiled in. Then you have Chris Evans delightfully going against type playing a less than honorable character that may tarnish some people’s view of Mr. Captain America. Still, it’s too fun to miss. The cast is spectacular, and they live up to their billing.
However, even the best cast won’t make up for a mystery plot that ultimately proves dissatisfying. You know the ones; where the big reveal at the end may be a twist, but has you trying to figure out how previous red herrings and clues really made any sense in leading to the surprise conclusion. Part of the strength of the writing for Knives Out is when you get to the end, all the pieces fit, and your stunned mind is left wondering why you didn’t see it before. Full credit Rian Johnson for following up his divisive Star Wars movie with a film that proves, unequivocally, that yes, he knows how to write and direct, and can do so quite well when unfettered from the rabid expectations of fans and the hand-wringing worry of franchise studio executives. Knives Out is the rare mystery that likely warrants at least two viewings; one to just enjoy the ride and to be surprised by the many twists and turns, a second to go back and follow the bread crumbs to see how they all led to the inevitable conclusion that you didn’t notice the first time around. It’s a rare movie that satisfyingly connects all of its various plot threads, but Knives Out ably resolves everything it introduces, which is part of what makes it so much fun.
I don’t really want to say too much about the plot, or even the characters really, because discovery is part of the great fun of this film. I will say that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Daniel Craig’s Detective Blanc. He’s yet another in a long line of quirky but brilliant detectives who always seems to solve the case through wit, intelligence, observation, and, admittedly, a bit of luck. Blanc says he’s a pursuer of truth. He likes to observe where the arc of events will take him, and when he gets to the end of that rainbow, there is where he’ll find the truth. He doesn’t so much discover truth, as he just follows it. The interesting point he makes, however, is that what’s really important isn’t so much finding the truth, as what one does with it once one finds the truth. This is especially pertinent during the holiday season we are now moving through. Truth is all around us this time of year. Reminders of truth are present in nativity scenes, Christmas lights, Christmas trees, carols, gifts and so much more. All of these are symbols that point back to the truth. All of these things remind us of the birth of Jesus, who said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6). Jesus also said, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37). Truth is not hard to find during the Christmas season, but the question remains, what will we do with that truth? Will we accept it? Will we embrace it? Will we share it? Or will we, like Pilate, mock it and say, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). For Detective Blanc, truth is what solves a crime, captures the criminal, and delivers justice. For the rest of us, especially during the Christmas season, truth is what can set us free from sin, bring us hope and joy, and fill that void that leaves so many wondering what Christmas is all about. Truth is, Christmas is really about truth, and the Truth is Jesus.
And the truth is that Knives Out is a really fun, compelling, engrossing, and entertaining who-dunit that perfectly fits with any of the classic who-dunits of yore. It has greater characters, sharp dialogue, a plot that keeps you guessing, and a thoroughly satisfying conclusion. Rian Johnson may be a divisive figure among Star Wars fans, but Knives Out proves that he’s a talented director and writer, not matter what you may think of The Last Jedi. Seriously, if you’re looking for some fun with family, or at least want to see how your family really isn’t all that bad after all, don’t miss Knives Out this holiday weekend.