KNIVES OUT

★★★★

A WHODUNNIT WORTHY OF AGATHA CHRISTIE'S HERCULE POIROT

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Charlie David Page
25th November 2019

Nine suspects. Nine motives. One murderer. There’s nothing more perfect in crime fiction than a baffling murder scenario. It’s what makes me pour over Agatha Christie’s books, time after time. And of course, there’s always that twist right at the end to keep you guessing. That’s precisely the kind of cinematic experience that ‘Knives Out’ promised, and it delivers in spades - with juicier twists than you could ever dream of.

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is celebrating his 85th birthday with his entire family in attendance. However, when he’s found dead the following morning, the police are quick to rule it a suicide - that is, until renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) arrives on the scene. Suddenly the entire family are murder suspects, but there can only be one killer... or can there?

To reveal any more would be foolish, destroying a deliciously enjoyable murder mystery thriller. What writer/director Rian Johnson has crafted here is a piece of art that perfectly balances crime, drama and comedy. Leaps and bounds ahead of the dull and distasteful ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, this is a story that Agatha Christie herself would have been proud of. The film is a masterclass in genre manipulation; he completely understands the elements necessary to play the murder and humour cards simultaneously, allowing the symbiotic relationship to flourish and produce a product that’s so perfectly on point with its dark laughs.

'KNIVES OUT' TRAILER

‘Knives Out’ is the definition of an ensemble cast, and an exquisite one at that. Perfectly aligned and without a foot out of place, each character is pure pleasure to observe. They’re precisely the kind of family you’d expect (and are hoping for) - money-hungry, conniving, and fast-witted. It’s a shame to single anyone out - except, of course, for the superb donut hole (this will make more sense after seeing the film) at the centre of the film, Harlan’s nurse and confidant Marta, played by Ana de Armas. With all the bold, brassy characters from the Thrombley family, she’s the one real person that provides the audience a life raft in the ludicrous lavishness. As our guide through the chaos that ensues, Marta is the heart of everything - a vessel for empathy, a plot device, a scapegoat, a conflicted and flawed individual.

That said, there’s still so much to salivate about within the family ranks. Jamie Lee Curtis couldn’t get any more callous if she tried, Michael Shannon makes you shudder with every action, Chris Evans’ slimy and shallow character will still win you over with his natural charisma, and Toni Collette provides much of the light entertainment playing her Californian yuppie to perfection. And then of course you have Daniel Craig strutting through the sets and quietly stealing every scene he turns up in. You couldn’t ask for a more enjoyable, refined, pitch-perfect collection of actors.

Perfectly aligned and without a foot out of place, each character is pure pleasure to observe. They’re precisely the kind of family you’d expect (and are hoping for) - money-hungry, conniving, and fast-witted.

Still, they can’t receive all the credit for this work of near-perfection. I have to live in the Thrombey house; from its fine attention to detail with the set design (the pinnacle being that stunning knife halo chair that features prominently throughout) to the rooms hidden behind bookcases I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid, it’s a work of perfection in itself. Similarly, Jenny Egan’s costume designs are something of an homage to Cluedo itself, with each character’s striking colour palette providing the cast as much personality as their personas.

This is a crime thriller that’s been a long time in the making. Mystery fans rejoice: ‘Knives Out’ is an impeccable cinematic achievement, laced with sardonic wit, division and conflict, and of course a perplexing puzzle. This is easily one of the most fun films of 2019 - it’s both a brilliant piece of entertainment and beautifully crafted enigma. Sit back, relax, and try to crack the code.

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