Monday, December 16, 2019

Movie with Abe: Knives Out

Knives Out
Directed by Rian Johnson
Released November 27, 2019

A good mystery requires the occurrence of some event that involves unexplained information, and it must provoke audience interest in uncovering that which is not immediately offered. In many cases, the presence of a twist that catches viewers completely off-guard can be key to an enthralling journey, and those few who are able to predict it will be able to congratulate themselves on their sleuthing abilities. The best kind of mysteries, however, don’t rely most on a single surprise but rather on the strength of the rollercoaster narrative that keeps those watching engaged and intrigued enough to stay through the end.

Wealthy novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) has been found dead in his giant estate. Private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is on the case, guiding Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) on what questions to ask and who to target from the array of possible suspects. Complicated relationships between Harlan and his ambitious daughter (Jamie Lee Curtis), publisher son (Michael Shannon), and vanity-obsessed daughter-in-law (Toni Collette) make them all worth looking at, along with grandson Ransom (Chris Evans), granddaughter Meg (Katherine Langford), and his trusted caregiver, Marta (Ana de Armas), giving Blanc quite the challenge since, as this film’s tagline suggests, any of them could have done it.

Director Rian Johnson is no stranger to stylized storytelling, making quite an impression with his feature directorial debut, “Brick,” and then again with his science-fiction thriller “Looper” before moving on to blockbusters like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Here, he presents a murder mystery that is most interested in crafting compelling characters and a worthwhile plot. The denouement of its story is indeed worthwhile and creative, but the investment of meeting these outrageous and entertaining people pays off well before that point. Billed as “a Rian Johnson whodunnit,” this film delights in the process of finding clues and presuming guilt even more than when it manages to definitively eliminate suspects or, better yet, actually find the true culprits.

This film has deservedly earned citations for its ensemble, which really works together fantastically. Craig is particular fun with a purposeful accent and energy that serves as a stark departure from his typical stoic James Bond, and de Armas, who turned in a memorable performance in “Blade Runner 2049,” stands out as the one apparent good person within this family of egotistical, judgmental troublemakers. Casting is key here, as is a funny, delightful script. Even if some aren’t wowed by the arc of the plot (though this reviewer was sufficiently impressed), the chance to meet and spend time with this wild family is certainly worth it.


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