Before I begin this review for “Knives Out”: story time. Originally, I wanted to get this review out around Thanksgiving. But work and family got in the way. I was disappointed to delay it because a murder mystery set around an eccentric family seemed timely for the holiday season. Lo and behold, I was right.
Following the death of acclaimed mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), Detective Lieutenant Eliot (Lakeith Stanfield) and Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a private investigator, are hired to investigate the murder. The two look into the family gathered for the funeral and interrogate each them. The possible suspects include Harlan’s daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), her husband Richard (Don Johnson), Joni (Toni Collette), the widow of Harlan’s late son, her daughter Megan (Katherine Langford), Harlan’s youngest son Walt (Michael Shannon), his Nazi son Jordan (Jaedan Martell), and Harlan’s entitled playboy grandson Ransom (Chris Evans). Everything grows into a chaotic kerfuffle when Harlan’s nurse Marta (Ana de Armas), as she seems to be at the center of key conflicts like the billionaire’s death and the matter of his will.
This movie is a who’s who of an ensemble cast. Everyone here gives a solid performance that reflects the archetypal family roles we’ve seen before. Jamie Lee Curtis holds strong as the self-made woman who tried to stand out from daddy’s money, acting as a foil to Michael Shannon’s character who rode off the father’s coattails and Don Johnson as the husband hiding his affair. But the movies carried with the triumvirate star power of Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas. Craig’s character brings his southern Sherlock Holmes performance and it keeps the audience on edge, as he always seems to be a step ahead of the game. Evans perfectly plays the narcissistic playboy and adds layers to the archetype. But no one shines as well as de Armas as the actress plays Marta as the unlikely maid who’s thrown into a tumultuous threshold. Her interactions with the family are a beautiful paradox, as they love her, until they don’t have to. There’s a strong scene where the family discusses the Trump administration’s immigration policies and Walt and Richard use Marta as the model minority.
Despite a slow start, the movie keeps audiences on the edge of their seats and guessing who orchestrated the murder and chaos behind it. We get an idea of who’s been behind the murder but wonder how things will unfold specifically. Like any good mystery, the movie leaves the audience guessing and trying to piece together the clues.
The movie’s style feels like a gothic Wes Anderson movie, with a stylistic aesthetic and a family with each member having their own personality. The Thrombey mansion has absurd features, from hidden rooms and passages, to a circle of knives pointing to the center, with it making the interrogation scenes more poignant and ties into the climax of the film. Chekov’s guns make up many of the scenes of the climax; every corner adds to the story.
“Knives Out” is the not only the definitive Thanksgiving movie, but a sign of a strong career for director Rian Johnson, post “The Last Jedi.” The story will leave the audience on edge, but the star-studded cast makes the movie shine. Like Thanksgiving leftovers, this movie will give you the feeling of a tense dinner with the relatives that is still enjoyable after Turkey Day.