Directed by Rian Johnson, Knives out follows a murder mystery around a family that recently discovers the head of the family has committed suicide, but things might not be as simple as they seem.
Murder mysteries have such a mass appeal to them that a well-written one is almost guaranteed to leave audiences entertained. The recipe is simple if not easy. It doesn’t necessarily need a great background score or excellent cinematography and can take it easy with the technical elements to just focus on writing and characters. And that’s exactly what Knives out is. Which is not to say the movie falters on a technical level in any way. Rian Johnson is excellent behind the camera and has also conceptualized a set that not only looks spectacular but is so for the right reason. But he knows what’s important here and has written a very convincing story that feels earned. Despite having an ensemble like this, no character barring maybe one feels like a plot device. They have their own personalities, their own backstories, and perfectly convincing motivations.
It’s surprising how rare good Whodunnits are considering how loved the genre is. Not to hate on other movies but a well-rounded plot that feels earned is my biggest expectation from a story like this and this one delivers completely. Not to hate on Quentin Tarantino but that is what The Hateful Eight lacked. He admits himself that there isn’t a lot of back and forth while writing a script and it shows. Johnson’s script, on the other hand, feels very well constructed and refined in terms of foreshadowing and set up that pays off beautifully. There are even narrations by multiple characters of the same event shown in different ways which were executed perfectly. But the main twist itself although satisfying is not completely unexpected. The movie actively tries to resolve everything by the end, so you’re not left with a lot to ponder about and I just wished for more. But this opinion comes from a huge fan of Detective Conan, so I’m just used to far greater plot twists.
But what I love the most are the characters and the performances. Without spoiling anything, special praise goes to Daniel Craig for an over the top southern accent that feels unconvincing at first but slowly eases its way over the runtime. He has wit to his character, a slight annoyance in how nosy he can be as a detective, has near-perfect comedic timing and doesn’t rely on tropes. Ana de Armas plays a very earnest and honest assistant to the family and gives an even performance throughout. Michael Shannon is hilarious playing a frustrated son that hasn’t been particularly successful with life. But as I said earlier, the entire cast has given great performances and they have great characters to play. Excellent job throughout.
I’m not an American but Knives Out feels like a very good thanksgiving movie. A satisfying murder mystery along with well-written characters, amazing performances and crisp humor just makes it perfect entertainment for any sort of audience be it friends, family or partners.