Rian Johnson has become a bit of a controversially acclaimed director over the past few years. He directed the 2012 sci-fi mob movie "Looper," but his work on "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" really got his name out there. As you might remember, "The Last Jedi" was one of the most disputed "Star Wars" films ever to be released. Some fans loved every minute of it, others hated almost all the creative decisions Johnson made with the film. The immense division and toxicity that has plagued "Star Wars" for the past couple years was, in large part, sparked by Johnson's take on the iconic franchise.
Johnson’s bold decisions with “Star Wars” made me incredibly curious to see what he would do next. He ultimately decided to depart from big franchises for his next feature film, instead choosing to write and direct a completely new and original murder mystery called "Knives Out."
“Knives Out” is a whodunit mystery that aims to make the audience continuously question everything they know. This Agatha Christie-inspired tale centers around the murder of a wealthy author named Harlan Thrombey, whose family is constantly seeking any opportunity to advance their own agendas. The night of the murder, the entire Thromby family is attending Harlan's birthday party, and a private investigator named Benoit Blanc begins to solve the case, considering them all to be suspects.
With "Knives Out," Johnson has delivered one of the year's most original, witty and ingenious films.
What separates "Knives Out" from other murder mysteries such as "Clue" and “Murder on the Orient Express” is its handling of information. It's difficult to say exactly how different the film is without spoiling the "who" aspect of "whodunit," but what can be said is that "Knives Out" takes a completely different approach to this mystery than one would expect. It provides loads of information for the audience to draw their own conclusions, but then it turns that information on its head. The film reveals that while not everything is exactly as it may seem at first glance, sometimes things really are as they seem. Reading too far into a clue can be just as misleading as not thinking hard enough.
With this directorial outing, Johnson has put together one of the best casts in any film of 2019. Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc, a private investigator, LaKeith Stanfield plays a police officer named Lieutenant Elliot, Christopher Plummer is Harlan Thrombey, Ana de Armas plays Marta, Harlan's nurse and the rest of the Thrombey family is made up of big-name talent such as Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Don Johnson and Jaeden Martell.
With a stacked cast, there are bound to be some actors that aren’t given a whole lot of time to shine, but Johnson did a miraculous job at giving everyone — except for maybe Martell — their moment in the spotlight.
Craig is thrilling and hilarious to watch as this private investigator. He has a large serving of southern twang to him, making him incredibly entertaining every time he was on-screen. Despite how silly the character was at times, he also carried a mysterious aura which fit in well with the overall tone of the movie.
Other standouts among the cast were Armas and Evans. Armas had a surprisingly large role in the film, arguably being the lead character, and she delivered a solid performance throughout all of her scenes. It seemed as though Johnson asked a lot of her in this film. She had to do some truly absurd and wacky acts while still maintaining a sense of reality and showing an incredible range of emotion with the character. Armas was able to portray every aspect of her character fantastically, making it look easy. She has given great performances before, like in “Blade Runner 2049,” but this is far and away the best I’ve seen from her.
Evans, who has become almost indistinguishable from the role of Captain America, really shows off his post-Marvel acting chops. His character in “Knives Out” is completely different than the all-American superhero Evans has become known for. Instead of this stoic, brave and thoughtful comic book persona, Evans’ character here is often overly sarcastic, selfish and unlikable. He’s a jerk to his family, and he often disregards most of what people tell him. It was a fundamentally different role, but watching Evans thrive in it never ceased to be a blast.
Watching “Knives Out” felt similar to playing an intense game of Clue with your family. There was a lot of humor to be found from start to finish, but it also got pretty heated at times. Each of the characters had their own quirks and motivations that made them fun to watch, and the performances from each of the actors brought those nuances to fruition. Johnson did a fantastic job directing, and he’s made a wonderfully intriguing and detailed whodunit film unlike any other. It’s an instant classic, and it’s undoubtedly one of the most original films I’ve seen in a long time.
Pardon the bad joke, but the real mystery here is why you haven’t gone out and bought your tickets yet.