I’ve been a big fan of Rian Johnson since his film Brick. It’s a great film, a wonderful twist on the film noir. I remain a fan, including and through The Last Jedi, a movie that was, shall we say, divisive, because it has minorities and women in it and one of the women is super good at the force and thus the movie is evil and should be hated. Or something. Fortunately for us, Johnson was not entirely subsumed into the giant blockbuster world that he dipped his toe into. It can be hard to escape a franchise. Like, say, if you play James Bond. Or a guy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What oddly specific references…or are they?
Here is how hyped I was to see Knives Out, the latest movie from Johnson, which happens to include in its massive, and massively impressive, cast Daniel Craig (aka Bond) and Chris Evans (aka Captain America). I found out, by a stroke of good luck, that they were doing a special screening at theaters around the country a week before it was opening wide. I immediately bought a ticket. I was intrigued. It was an old-school murder mystery, with Craig as a genius consulting detective in the vein of a Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. Although, to me he has a lot of Lieutenant Columbo in him as well. The trailers for Knives Out made it feel like a classic whodunit, something we don’t see much anymore. Of course, I should have known that the guy who brought a fresh take on the film noir with Brick wasn’t just going to make a traditional drawing room mystery. Knives Out is so much more.
Obviously, I’m not going to say too much. I won’t go into the plot. I won’t spoil a thing. That would be a total dick move on my part, for you as a filmgoer and for Johnson as a filmmaker. It was such an enjoyable movie experience, though. As a murder mystery, it works. The plotting is sharp and it never drags. The movie is propulsive, but it has time for its characters. We don’t dig much into Benoit Blanc, the last of the gentleman sleuths, played by Craig. Oh, he’s a fun character, but he’s the detective. He’s there to solve the crime. It’s the rest of the cast of characters that get a chance to be fleshed out.