Knives Out

⭐⭐⭐⭐ based on 1 review.

tl;dr: A triumphant attempt at a classic murder mystery. Intrigue, suspense, excellent cast, and just enough twists on the ol'formula to keep you interested.


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I couldn't help but feel that Knives Out was at least a little bit of a middle-finger to Star Wars. Here we have Rian Johnson's first film since The Last Jedi and it releases within a week of The Rise of Skywalker, with a stupidly star-studded cast, and to critical acclaim. Yeah, this feels at least a little manufactured... and I can't really blame anyone. Knives Out is a great film and, as I've said elsewhere, I do think Johnson's take on Star Wars was unfairly cut short.

That said, I think a lot of the same critiques of TLJ can be levelled at Knives Out. It's another film which feels like the director couldn't pick between homage and modern update, meaning that there are some moments where expectations are dashed for the sake of it, whilst other bits feel oddly outdated. Overall, though, it's a great movie with brilliant performances throughout and just enough suspense, twists and intrigue to keep you riveted. I don't think it perfectly nails the murder mystery setup, with some parts feeling a bit too obvious whilst others just leave you stumped, but I'd say at least 90% of its narrative lands which is pretty good going.

Daniel Craig is fantastic as PI Blanc, and his constant amusement at how simple yet complicated everything appears to be really helps hold the plot together; his supporting detectives providing much needed levity and exposition in equal parts, whilst actually being two of the more interesting characters (I don't think they'll be getting the praise they deserve).

I also really liked that we find out what really happened extremely early. It's that rare moment where throwing out convention genuinely helps and completely changes the way you interact with the film. You're no longer trying to work out "who dunnit", but instead are forced to determine whether you're rooting for the seeming murderer (considering she's easily the only likeable suspect) or whether it's one big setup or what on earth is happening. It also works wonders for throwing you off the scent of the actual murderer, who otherwise would have been a fairly easy spot, and helps sell his narrative arc through the film too. Heck, at various points I though that Marta was a Kaiser Söze-esque character (I fully expected the scene where she's watching TV with her mum to slowly zoom in on her restless leg and see it go completely slack, as she "switched off the act"), that Ransom was fully innocent but going to end up taking the rap himself just to screw over the family, and that Harlan was still alive and orchestrating the entire thing as a kind of test/learning experience for his family. So I guess it managed to keep me, well, guessing pretty, well, well.

On the flipside, it also gave me some excellent moments of deliberately obvious "twists", most notably (and hilariously) Ransom's attempted murder at the end of the film. For anyone that's ever worked with stage knives it was pretty apparent the moment he grabbed the blade what was going to happen, but it became a genuine, laugh-out-loud punchline thanks to the line from Harlan about "not being able to tell the different between real and fake blades" earlier in the film. That's a subtle but excellent narrative callback or premonition (depending on your perspective) that just worked perfectly; particularly as I'd been blindsided by Marta's confession ploy just moments earlier, easily the biggest unexpected twist of the film for me!

Basically, I really enjoyed Knives Out and think it was a triumph, that rare murder mystery which I'd more than happily watch again just to better understand its own setup and (even rarer) just because it was a fantastic story and performance. I don't think it deserves quite the level of critical acclaim that it's getting, but I'd definitely recommend it thoroughly.

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