After the critical and commercial success of Star Wars: The Last Jedi almost two years ago – a galaxy to which he will soon return with a brand new trilogy – he spent years developing a subversive version of the long-standing franchise under the supervision of The Eyes by Lucasfilm, author and director Rian Johnson, return to his roots in the pre-epic space opera with Knives Out. Think of it as a modern version of the crime genre, a tribute to Agatha Christie's works, as Johnson willingly admitted. Unless he thinks the least interesting part of a whodunnit is whodunnit, which is why Knives Out 2019 is more of a commentary on American society in general.
It's the kind of film that works best when you don't know anything. We therefore recommend that you return after seeing it, even if there are no plot spoilers below.
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Knives Out focuses on the malfunctioning extended family of the wealthy and famous crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who is found dead the morning after his 85th birthday. Harlan had gathered everyone for the occasion. This causes the local police to open an investigation that believes it is an open suicide case, but the anonymous attitude of the renowned private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) makes things exciting. Enter the traditional question scene, which not only introduces us to the rest of the family, but above all gives an insight into their perspectives and a possible motive for the murder of the patriarch.
There is the eldest daughter, Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), a real estate mogulin who brags about being self-made even though she had substantial financial support. On the day of his birthday, Harlan confronted her husband Richard (Don Johnson) for cheating on her. Linda and Richard's son, Ransom (Chris Evans), is an idiot who has never worked in his life. Harlan's daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette) is a lifestyle guru who is related to Gwyneth Paltrow and her croaky “lifestyle brand” Goop. Her own daughter Meg (Katherine Langford) is a self-righteous social activist. Harlan's youngest son Walt (Michael Shannon) has only one job: to publish his father's books. And there is Walt & # 39; s son, the old-right internet troll Jacob (Jaeden Martell).
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But that's not all. Harlan had a private sister in Marta (Ana de Armas) who looked after him. What makes Marta so unique for Blanc is that she is the only one who had nothing to gain from Harlan's death. Everyone else in the Thrombey clan was desperate for the wealth they would inherit. This makes Marta the moral core of Knives Out, and Johnson installs a device to improve it: an exasperating response to not telling the truth. In plain language, Marta vomits when she lies. Sure, Johnson plays with it a little bit to vent, but on the whole, it makes sure that Marta can never get the audience out of concept. It's fun and clever at the same time.
There is another good reason to put Marta in the center of Knives Out. Through them Johnson can meet the faux liberal nature and performative nice of the Thrombeys. They may say that they love Marta and would always take care of her, but no one in the family really knows which South American country – from Ecuador to Paraguay to Uruguay – she is being driven from. This speaks both for their apathy and for the inherent xenophobia, which is also expressed in the slightly drunk conversations after dinner. It also speaks volumes that Marta is a kind-hearted daughter of immigrants in a film about high-society schemers who are always ready to draw a flip side.
It helps Armas – best known for the AI hologram Joi in Blade Runner 2049 – deliver her best career work at Knives Out so you can get in touch with her right away. And she's surrounded by an excellent ensemble from Lee Curtis to Collette that has a chance to play a different note than most of her most recent roles. Evans is just hanging off his Captain America shield and is really enchanted as an idiot who loves attention. And Craig, who is mocked by Ransom in Kentucky as "CSI: KFC", has to take a completely different path than the stiff spy he is known for. His all seeing eye lets him replace the natural audience as he guides us through the clues.
In return, Johnson helps the actors by providing them with some delicious lines and exchanges that make fun of the emptiness of the homemade American myth and, among other things, indulge in the ugliness of the Thrombey family dynamic. In one scene, the latter helps achieve a bit of a really fitting feel that the audience desires for these two faces. And elsewhere, the joy is simply seen in how the actors think about their own words, including the fact that Blanc creates an analogy to food-based homicide, claiming that there's a donut-shaped hole in the middle. Later, when information – a “donut” – fills it, he notices that it also has a donut-shaped hole. Yes, that's how donuts work.
Knives Out is powered by one of the most talented casts you've ever seen – there's a role for Lakeith Stanfield that we didn't even mention – that seem to have the time of their life and have a strong socio-political message about how immigrants today are perceived implicitly and explicitly in America. However, some of it is superficial. It's also a well-made thriller that creates excitement in expected – and sometimes unexpected – fun ways, along with a taste for style. His only flaw is that after an initial rush, it takes some time to get started and there are a few stumbling blocks in the middle. However, these are to be excused, considering how the second half arrives when the twists and turns appear.
The wonderful thing about Johnson is that his films come from a place of admiration for the genre, and he's ready to push the boundaries of what it's about. He played with The Last Jedi because he loved the franchise, and he stood by his choices, even though he got a lot of hatred from a subset of Star Wars fans. With Knives Out, Johnson publishes a story that Christie would have appreciated, but he is sure to go one step further to undermine her. Hopefully he will return to Earth for such stays while planning his long-term trip to a distant galaxy.
Knives Out is now playing in cinemas worldwide.