Sorry for being like, 5 months late, but it took a while for the movie to get to digital. Also, sorry for not doing anything for April. I don’t think I can do Sonic the Hedgehog because I missed the chance to see it before public gatherings became too dangerous to attend.
Director Rian Johnson, the king of the “Ha! Gotcha!”, has returned and is back in his native element: literally anything but Star Wars movies.
Admittedly the only Rian Johnson movie I had watched before Knives Out was The Last Jedi, so I went in with low expectations despite the critical success of the latter. And Mr. Johnson managed to subvert my expectations once again. The movie is fantastic. Go watch it now.
First of all, the casting choice is amazing. Every character down to the secondary characters is perfect in every sense of the word. It’s like these people were born to play in this movie.
Daniel Craig (best known for his iconic James Bond) as the whiz detective Benoit Blanc is excellent. The moment he first speaks is in itself hilarious: you expect Daniel Craig of all people to have a dignified British accent, but he just breaks in with this Southern DrawlTM. It’s kind of a meta choice to give the definitive 007 an excessive French name, then make him a Foghorn Leghorn-esque Southern Detective extraordinaire. Little mannerisms and facial expressions, the way he explodes with passion with every memorized line. I’m sad that No Time to Die was his last Bond film, but if he keeps doing these roles, I’ll take it any day.
Ana de Armas is probably one of the bolder decisions in this already bold movie. I haven’t actually heard of her before, but a cursory search tells that she’s a newcomer to Hollywood. That being said, de Armas absolutely rocks. She plays Marta, an insecure nurse and friend, so well. Like with Daniel Craig, little mannerisms and body language convey insecurity, mischief, fear, anger, sadness, and more.
Knives Out is about a wealthy, eccentric old man named Harlan Thrombey. Among his exploits, he has a massive publishing empire, has written many blockbusting detective novels. His Victorian house is filled with many a secret entryway (his bedroom is literally behind a false door), and his demeanor feels like the fun grandpa mixed with a washed-up fun detective. That makes it all the more surprising when (spoiler alert!) he is found one morning, bled out from a punctured carotid artery. Despite this, Benoit Blanc has been called to the scene to find out what exactly happened, only to find every member of the family had something against Harlan.
In Knives Out, Johnson manages to take the whodunit genre and not only make it cool again, but actually subvert expectations of a genre that is literally about subverting expectations. Which makes sense, since Rian Johnson is the king of subversion, and for once it works in his favor.
First, the way Johnson manages to handle the movie is very well executed. Knives Out manages not one, but two genre flips seamlessly. You feel tension at all of the tense parts, all of the jokes land in the humorous parts, and everything feels in-place and completely sound even with the completely ridiculous plot. In fact, ridiculousness works to this movie’s favor; the inherent fantasticality of the genre, combined with Johnson’s style, makes the movie even better yet simultaneously believable. Johnson manages to take a worn-out formula, twist it around 360 degrees, and keep it lively and fun.
Of course there are the tiny, tiny details that make this movie work. Once again, difficult to talk about without spoiling the movie. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll bold anything that seems to be a spoiler.
First off, there are countless examples of reflections and subtleties in lighting. For one, Linda Drysdale, wife to one of Harlan’s sons, wears a pair of glasses; in production, special cameras and props were used to make the reflections off her specs accurate to the set. The lights shining through the windows in the Thrombey’s mansion aid in the whole set’s 60s-70s ambiance.
And of course, there are details unique to the whodunit genre. The way each character’s flashbacks are slightly different from what actually happened (and that it isn’t Harlan that’s the jerk, it’s literally everyone else in the family). How each family member claims that Marta is “a nice girl,” “practically a part of the family,” yet they view her as just another maid. The way Blanc and others literally fill in holes.
Finally, there are great themes and messages.
First of all, this movie has drawn some complaints for its seemingly pro-immigration themes, but frankly I don’t think that’s the point. The point is that before Marta is found to be the will recipient, many of the family used her as an example of the “good, legal immigrant” even though her mother, unbeknownst to them, was an undocumented immigrant. And after it was revealed that Marta had received everything Harlan owned, it was the pro-immigration family member that tried to use Marta’s mother’s legal status to blackmail her.
There’s also the theme of family. Despite not being of blood relations, Marta is the only one written into Harlan’s will because she was the only one to treat Harlan as an actual person. (Plus, it’s strange but refreshing to see a take on this genre where the murder victim forgives his murderer, and the murderer herself was accidental, and then for it to turn out that real murderer was actually a family member this whole time.)
It sounds corny to write, which makes sense because it kind of is corny to think about, but the execution and the way Johnson holds you in the palm of his hand, eyes glued from scene to scene looking for details and explanation, makes this plot incredibly enticing.