Wait! Don’t go. I totally get it, films like Knives Out are very, very sensitive to spoilers. And I promise, I won’t spill any beans in this review, alright? My name doesn’t rhyme anywhere close to Mark Holland or Tom Ruffalo, however you put it.
The reason any mainstream audience would get attracted to Knives Out, is, no doubt, the presence of Steve Rogers in the film, aka Chris Evans himself. The good news is, you get to see a lot of him in Knives Out, and the character which he played is befitting of him in the looks department. The bad news? It’s far from being Evan’s strongest performance. That honor goes to Ana de Armas, and Daniel Craig to some extent.
I’m not particularly averse to a ‘whodunit’ film like Knives Out. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I love the brain workout and mind games that thrive in such movies, and oddly, I saw joy in Daniel Craig’s unusual role as a mischievous, Sherlock Holmes’esque detective. With that said, Knives Out had always been on my radar since the trailer’s release.
One common pitfall of whodunit films has got to do with the plot, which, if done incorrectly, can lead to extended sessions of boredom and disconnect. “I don’t give a sh*t anymore! I’ll just wait for the finale to reveal who the murderer is!”. Sounds familiar? In which, I can reassuringly report that it’s not the case with Knives Out.
Apart from Star Wars, Rian Johnson is well known for single-handedly direct, write and produce strong performing films like Looper (2012) and Brick (2005). The one-man-army has done it again with Knives Out, and he had come out with this original story that is nothing short of breathtaking.
Of course, you don’t get that traditional whodunit plot that plays by utmost secrecy until the very final moment of the finale, when everything is spilled out. And of course, with that, the usual “based on best-selling crime novel” flair is missing.
But that doesn’t take away any of the suspense and fun of the film, as Knives Out plays by a unique plot that breathes some fresh air into the genre. It’s a story that shares a generous amount of truth to the audience as the clock ticks into the early hours of the film, and yet abide by that final piece of a puzzle that Johnson had planted into the plot as a dangling carrot. I prefer to call it a bait, because that is what motivates you to be continuously vested in the plot, but in some other way assures you that you already know the big picture, and persuades you to let your guard down.
There is a superficial lack of variety in the location where the events unfold, because, you guessed it, most of the scenes happen right within the Thrombey’s mansion. Still, I called it superficial because this, together with the absence of bold camera moves have been compensated by Johnson with extreme attention to the rich details of the mansion. Ironically, it never gets old seeing the antiquated mansion in action, because there is virtually a hidden treasure tucked within each scene. Besides, the maze-like layout of the mansion made me feel like a little kiddo who wants to explore that mansion even more.
All that expensive backdrop and the apprehending story requires an equally dedicated act to bring it all to life, in which, Johnson had struck a lottery with Ana de Armas, and perhaps a consolation with Daniel Craig. They said that the eyes are the window to your soul, which rings true for de Armas. Maybe that is why Johnson often rewarded Marta Cabrera with unusually close-up, shallow depth of field shots towards her face as compared to other characters. De Armas’ oftentimes moist (with just the right amount) eyes that were choked with worries, tell more story than many other things in the film.
I likened Craig’s casting to a consolation prize because while I enjoyed seeing him in Knives Out, I am still a little divided. His character, Benoit Blanc, speaks with an unusual slang which made him an even more peculiar character than what he seemed at first. It certainly needs some getting used to, especially if you’re used to his smooth, suave conversation manner in Bond films. Sure, it’s not the most natural of acts, and Blanc does not necessarily speak or act intelligently at times, but that also made the character raw and feels relatable. And made many, many scenes terrifically hilarious.
Perhaps, it’s the humor that has lightened up the mood in Knives Out and balanced it so well against its dark color tones. A story-line that starts with someone’s death is not particularly uplifting, so it’s nice for the audience to see some contrasting events. Like a group of obnoxious family members fighting with each other. Which, was the exact treatment that Johnson had given to the Thrombeys, and he really liked to cook them up into fully baked subjects of ridicule.
Elsewhere in Knives Out, some carefully thought over, and tremendously metaphorical scenes can be observed. Those are the scenes which separate Rian Johnson from the average filmmakers, and are worth studying even long after Knives Out has lost its grossing ability. Here’s a little activity, without spoilers, for those who plan to watch Knives Out anytime soon. Spot the scene in the movie that’s befitting to this description: “As she was running away, she found herself passing a long, dark tunnel. There was a glaring light at the end of it, and she knew that it was her salvation. A monster appeared, halting her journey, and with each hammering strike, she was pushed back into the darkness, deeper, and deeper, away from the light.” It won’t be that hard.
Knives Out tied together Daniel Craig’s unusual portrayal, Ana de Armas’ believable performance, and Chris Evans stratospheric fame with an original story worthy of awards. Rian Johnson is more than capable to spice up this otherwise dark-natured film with satisfying amount of humor, and instill his own artistic twist towards the story and scenes. In the end, Knives Out, as its name may suggest, is relentlessly entertaining—The Film Addict