Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a fabulously wealthy murder mystery novelist who lives in a big spooky house with his strange family of leeches, I mean, relatives. That is, until he’s found dead. Was it a suicide? The police think so, though quirky private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) isn’t so sure. There’s a long line of potential suspects, starting with Harlan’s greedy, grotesque family, who all have a motive for murder. Complications–and zaniness–ensue!
My coworker Kelly had recommended this movie to me when it first came out–a recommendation that was also seconded by Jen–and thanks to you both! I’m so glad I watched it! I haven’t had this much fun watching a movie in, well, a while.
First and foremost, Knives Out is a loving but very savvy tribute and send-up of Agatha Christie stories. I love Agatha Christie stories–she was one of the first mystery writers I read, and I still have an abiding enjoyment of her stories. I won’t deny that her books can certainly be formulaic in their own way, though I also think that is part of their charm. (I’ve even written a guide to surviving an Agatha Christie mystery if you ever find yourself trapped in one. I’ve put a lot of thought into this so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.)
If you’ve ever read an Agatha Christie story–or watched an adaptation–you’ll recognize the basic set-up of the movie, as well as the general types who inspire many of the characters. Knives Out isn’t afraid to play with those well-worn tropes–and poke fun at them–but it also isn’t afraid to embrace them wholeheartedly, and the filmmakers clearly had a lot of fun in the process. It’s basically Arrested Development meets Agatha Christie. (Or the mystery equivalent of Rustler’s Rhapsody.)
Daniel Craig in particular seems to be having a blast with Benoit, who has a ridiculously outrageous Southern drawl, which somehow weirdly works. I make a point of noting how fantastic Craig is in this movie because I generally do not like Craig as an actor and, ahem, may have uttered some unflattering thoughts about him within the library’s walls in the not-so-distant past. But he is so good in this movie! I take back many things I’ve said about you, Daniel.
And the whole all-star cast is excellent, really. Most of the relatives are awful people, but they are relentlessly entertaining, what with their shifting alliances, petty bickering, and inept lies. Though there aren’t any weak links in the cast, standouts include Jamie Lee Curtis as Harlan’s ferociously ambitious daughter, Don Johnson as her weasel of a husband, Chris Evans as her smug son, Michael Shannon (always a favorite of mine) as her pathetic brother, and Toni Collette as her cosmic, ditzy sister-in-law. Ana de Armas is also great as Marta, Harlan’s caring nurse.
I also particularly enjoyed the fact that the filmmakers resisted the urge to set this during an earlier time period, as Christie’s stories generally are, and instead made it a modern-day tale.
The mystery itself, in true classic mystery fashion, is a convoluted one. I was pretty proud of myself for guessing parts of it–I got my honorary detective badge from watching lots of Columbo in addition to reading lots of Agatha Christie–but I still didn’t guess all of it, and the unexpected twists and turns are definitely part of the fun too.
Are you a fan of murder mysteries? Did you enjoy Knives Out? What have you been watching lately? Tell us in the comments! You can put this item on hold by visiting our online library catalog.