Movie Review: Knives Out

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3 stars

PG-13 |

Director: Rian Johnson

Writer: Rian Johnson

by Jason Koenigsberg

Knives Out is a funny and clever whodunit. Narrative twists abound it can keep the audience guessing until the final moments. The talented ensemble cast does a stellar job for writer/director Rian Johnson in the follow up to his biggest hit Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). This time he uses an Agatha Christie murder mystery premise as a guise for a social commentary on class structure, wealth inheritance, and immigration. Knives Out is a bit heavy handed and left leaning with its message but the story flows so well that most viewers will probably not mind. 

The opening shot is of a house at dusk as two black dogs run toward the screen. The house itself is practically a character in Knives Out as one of the detectives describes it as being “like a ‘Clue’ board”, an accurate description indeed. The camera work and editing never get too fancy and thankfully the style of the movie never overpowers the dialogue or the plot which is the focal point of the film, something rare nowadays in big blockbusters. The plot is basic enough, a family patriarch (Christopher Plummer) who is a mystery author is found dead of an apparent suicide. The police and a private detective (Daniel Craig) are called in to investigate if there is any foul play. Sure enough not everything is what it seems and his children, in-laws, grandchildren, are all potential suspects. So is the help, mainly a nurse played by Ana de Armas who carries a lot of scenes on her own. The less said about the plot from this point forward the better. But the performances across the board eloquently sell the script and all its contrivances. Most of the surprises Rian Johnson has in store work are better kept a secret. 

The last twenty minutes of Knives Out are absolutely priceless and the reveals keep piling on top of each other. This is a fun movie that mystery lovers will devour. The final two shots really hit home what Rian Johnson is trying to say about America and our ignorance and tunnel vision regarding white privilege. It is pretty blatant when you see who is standing up high over everyone else. He also throws in a few metaphors about our reliance on technology and not to underestimate the older generations. It does go a bit overboard at times with its message and political debates among the family members reminding us that this is very much a product of 2019. Politics aside, Knives Out works because of a taut script and terrific acting and is worth seeing over this Thanksgiving break. 

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