by SC Reviewer Shelby Larsen
Knives Out is one of the most fun, entertaining movies this year. In a set-up reminiscent of the traditional Agatha Christie murder mystery, a talented cast that clearly enjoys each of their characters particular brand of skullduggery, lead the audience through a winding path of twists and turns, and red herrings and clues regarding the death of the family patriarch.
The victim, Harlan Thrombey, is embodied by Christopher Plummer, whose charming exterior covers a menacing interior. He’s a famous and wealthy mystery writer, who dies by what is initially reported as suicide, but is really murder. Really, who commits suicide by slitting his own throat?
His family provides a plethora of possible suspects and motives, familiar to all fans of the genre. There’s Daughter Linda, a tough and Successful Businesswoman (Jamie Lee Curtis), her Worthless Husband (Don Johnson), her Despicable Son (Chris Evans), Harlan’s Weak Son, who runs the publishing side of his business, and Flaky Self-Help Daughter in Law (Toni Collette) .
The most interesting figure is the maid, Marta, played brilliantly by Ana de Armas, who is a “member of the family” but can never remember what country she comes from. She’s been Harlan Thrombey’s confident over the years. What does she know?
These familiar figures are so fleshed out and individualized by the talented actors, that they feel fresh, and interesting.
Then, enter famous detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) with an exotic accent and impenetrable manner, who listens and sifts through the clues. Blanc appears to be a riff on Hercule Poiroit, as Craig indulges in an exaggerated Foghorn Leghorn southern accent. The accent tends to drop occasionally, but that’s a minor flaw in his performance. Blanc has been mailed a newspaper story, and an envelope of cash. Who did that? Why? Who is revealing what? Who is, or is not, what they seem.
There are subtle visual references throughout the film to classic mystery stories and movies. But don’t let them distract from the intricate plot; you’ll need to keep up.
It’s a pleasure to write the words “intricate plot” in a movie review this year. Plots, let alone intricate ones are hard to come by in the formulaic films that fill the theaters. So go enjoy one where a dated formula runs askew, and makes a toughly modern movie.