23 May 2020
A whodunnit that is old fashioned enough to be warmly familiar yet iventive and clever enough to be fresh, Rian Johnson’s latest is without doubt his best to date. Christopher Plummer is Harlan Thrombey, one of the biggest mystery authors in the country, and his family gathers for his 85th birthday in his stately mansion in rural Massachusetts. However, he is found the next morning in his study having apparently slid his own throat. As things go, everyone in the house is a suspect and it falls to the Poriot-ish Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig in full “KFC” mode) to solve the mystery.
So far, so familiar. There is even a masters-and-servants dynamic, with the latter represented by Harlan’s confidante and nurse Marta (Ana de Armas). As expected the rest of the family is made up oddballs and fuck-ups played by a stellar cast — they are all universally brilliant. Even though this all sounds derivative (and it is), but Johnson gives his characters enough room to breathe and not let their idiosyncracies take over the story.
The ‘dunnit’ part is revealed pretty early on and the rest of the story becomes a Hitchockian suspense of who will find out first. Admittedly it drags on a little bit towards the end of the second act that culminates in a ridiculous car chase, but that shouldn’t take away from the sheer enjoyment Knives out offers its viewers. It’s a very well made comedy that is smarter than most whodunnits.