TIFF 2019: ‘Knives Out’ Is A Hilarious Whodunnit That Shines With Relevant Social Commentary – Review
Writer/Director Rian Johnson is back at it again with his latest film, Knives Out. The murder-mystery revolves around the Thrombey family and their closest friends, who are wrapped up in a whodunnit situation after the death of Thrombey patriarch, Harlan (Christopher Plummer). But with a plethora of suspects to choose from and many of them pointing fingers at one another, the film has many laugh-out-loud moments, coupled with undeniable commentary on what is happening in America today.
The film begins with the housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson) bringing Harlan’s breakfast upstairs, only to find her employer dead on the couch of his study. Police have been called, and Det. Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) and State Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) are on the case. Attempting to find out what happened the night prior while Harlan was celebrating his 85th birthday amongst friends and family, Det. Elliot and Trooper Wagner, must question everyone with the mysterious private investigator, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) looking over their shoulders, asking his own questions every chance he gets. The trio must question the entire family including: Thrombey’s daughter, Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), her husband, Richard (Don Johnson), Thrombey’s daughter-in-law, Joni (Toni Collette), Thrombey’s son, Walt (Michael Shannon), and Thrombey’s friend and nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas).
With many back and forths, many conflicting circumstances surrounding various stories from the family members, there’s no denying that something strange is going on at the Thrombey manor (which looks very much like the house from the board game Clue – very a propos for a successful crime novelist). There is no doubt, especially to Mr. Blanc, that there are many factors at play and shenanigans afoot as it pertains to Harlan Thrombey’s death. However, the quest for the truth and who might be the culprit – if there even is one – is something that Mr. Blanc is hellbent on solving. Whether he will succeed or not is an entirely different story, and something you’ll have to find out yourself when you see the film in theaters.
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is a film that is smart and witty, has great world-building and is anchored by great performances from the entire cast. Each and every character had a purpose, had a unique voice and was played to perfection by their respective actors. I was particularly impressed with Collette’s performance as Joni. Not only was the character hilarious, she was also relatable in the sense that I’d say it’s safe to assume that we’ve all known a Joni (or two) in our lifetime. Collette’s line delivery and comedic timing was impeccable, making her one of my favourite characters in the film. But as I said earlier, each character has an important part to play in the story’s narrative and each and every actor was great.
While there is a lot of hilarity that ensues in Knives Out, one of its best assets is that it shines a much-needed light on current issues that many are facing. On one hand, we have a rich family who is mainly concerned about themselves and what inheritance they might be left with after Harlan’s death; while his nurse, Marta, is the only one who truly seems concerned about that happened to her friend. While I do not want to say much about what happens in the film, as I believe it’s best to go into the movie knowing as little as possible, the social commentary within it is very spot-on. While some of it may be delivered in comedic fashion, this never takes away from the message that Johnson has placed at the heart of his film. Knives Out goes beyond the traditional murder-mystery and really gives its audience important things to think about. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and look forward to seeing it again when it’s released a few months from now.
Knives Out hits theaters later this year on November 27. Be sure to mark the date in your calendar because you definitely won’t want to miss Knives Out.