Movie Monday, Movies, Review

Knives Out: A Modern Whodunit Masterpiece

Mysteries are so much fun. Especially since I’m an idiot who can never guess it right, so they never get old! But modern mysteries haven’t done much for me. That’s why I always stick to old Sherlock Holmes stories or Agatha Christie books.

Which is why I missed out on Knives Out. I’ll never let myself live that down.

Knives Out is one of the most solid whodunit mysteries I’ve ever watched. I was gripped from beginning to end, trying to put all the pieces together. I was completely wrong, of course, but that’s a good thing! The movie subverted my expectations (get it? because Rian Johnson directed- eh, fuck it) in a clever and satisfying way! Yet, when all the pieces were presented to me, it made perfect sense!

Even if it is surprisingly simple. Hey, both Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot used to say that the simplest solution was often the right one.

Story: A Perfectly Functional Family

Yup. Nothing wrong here. That’s why they’re in a murder mystery story.

Harlan Thrombey, successful murder mystery author, celebrates his 85th birthday with his family. The next morning, he’s found dead by their housekeeper, his throat slit. The police deem it a suicide. But private detective Benoit Blanc believes otherwise. Hired by an unknown party, Benoit sets out to find the truth behind the seemingly normal circumstances behind this tragedy.

I am leaving a helluva lot out of that plot synopsis. Fuck, dude, I haven’t even mentioned the real main character! But if I did, it wouldn’t take too long for me to stumble my way into spoilers. And frankly: I need to avoid those as much as possible. Seriously, you need to go into this one as blind as possible.

This movie clearly takes a lot of inspiration from classic Agatha Christie stories. Hell, it’s basically a modern Christie mystery! Albeit one with more cursing, racism, and jokes. But the core itself is very Christie.

If you think that’s a bad thing, you’re wrong. Being compared to the Queen of Mystery herself is far from bad!

The actual mystery at the core of this story is incredibly well crafted. It wastes no time, quickly giving you all the necessary clues right off the bat while also presenting you with multiple red herrings to lead you off the trail. Then, it slowly drip feeds you more and more information, quickly and efficiently building towards the grand reveal.

The reveal itself is also pretty well done. When the time comes and the curtain is drawn, all the pieces fall into place, right down to the most subtle line of dialogue. Sure, the culprit themselves isn’t super shocking. But the story does more than enough to throw you off the scent, so it is well executed.

That, or I’m incredibly stupid and should’ve but didn’t see it coming. It might be that.

The characters themselves are a mixed bag. Some of them are fantastic, getting tons of screen time to flesh them out. Others are basically walking gags, like the fanboy detective. Some are just there to supply one clue and then never do anything else of significance. Rather than suspecting everyone, you only suspect about three or four people, since they’re the ones who get enough development to actually be a suspect.

Although one of them is a satire on Gwyneth Paltrow and her goop nonsense, which is hilarious.

I really like Benoit Blanc, though. After reading so much Sherlock Holmes, it’s refreshing to see a detective who isn’t an all-knowing super genius. Yes, he’s still the smartest man in the room. But he doesn’t understand anything right up until the end of the movie! He feels like a more grounded, human version of the super detectives we get in most mystery stories. He’s a pretty fun, memorable, and likable take on the archetype.

Knives Out isn’t just about the mystery, though. It also loops in some politics! It explores the struggles of American immigrants and how the stress of their circumstances can affect them. It isn’t the most subtle thing in the world, but it adds a nice layer to the story and its characters. Plus, it creates a great sense of discomfort in certain scenes; you know those awkward political talks that happen at family gatherings? Yeah, imagine that, but you’re not a member of the family and the topic on discussion greatly affects you.

Writing wise, this movie is pretty good. Sure, not all of the jokes land and not all the characters are all that well written. But it’s a rock solid, subtle mystery story that had me hooked from start to end.

Presentation: Above Average, Not Incredible

In terms of cinematography, this movie is pretty decent. Some of the shots are visually stimulating and interesting. But it doesn’t have anything that’s especially incredible. No shot really stands out as being truly incredible.

There are a few fun ones, though. Although it’s mostly because of the sets or props. Pretty much every shot with the big circle of weapons is pretty good. There’s also a really well-done slow-mo shot near the end, which actually manages to build tension rather than look silly.

It’s also super refreshing to see a Hollywood movie where all the sets are real and the effects are practical. If there was any CGI, it was too small or unimportant to notice. After seeing so many computer animated flicks for so many years, it’s a huge breath of fresh air.

Glad to know that this movie should age pretty well. As compared to… literally everything else coming out of Hollywood these days.

Performances: Wrestling For the Spotlight

Oh my lord, dude, everyone in this movie is so good! I don’t think there’s a single bad actor, not even a single misread line, in this entire movie! If none of these dudes won an award for this movie, I’m gonna be upset and confused!

Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc is the first stand out of the lot. Not only does he have a really convincing southern American accent, he also plays a great detective! He gives the character a very grounded yet powerful presence. It seems like he’s always observing, always putting the pieces together. Plus, he can be goofy enough at times to feel like a person and not a crime-solving machine.

Chris Evans as Ransom Drysdale is just as good. Watching him play an unabashed asshole is super refreshing after ten years of Captain America. You can tell that he was having a lot of fun with this performance. In turn, I had a lot of fun watching him!

Jamie Lee Curtis as Linda Drysdale was another favorite of mine. Watching her play a mega-bitch is, surprisingly, not the most infuriating thing in the world! She doesn’t get much screen time, but she steals the show whenever she does! She makes you want to suspect her!

I could go on and on, but I’d be here all day if I did. Everyone was rock solid, taking the excellent script and bringing it to life phenomenally. Everyone in this movie gives an A+ performance.

Conclusion

Holy shit, this movie is fun! This was one of the most enjoyable murder mysteries I’ve ever experienced! My only regret is not having seen it sooner!

Although, missing out on the theatrical experience might not be so bad. There’s always that one guy that ruins the whole thing.

If you need a good murder mystery in your life, Knives Out is a fantastic choice. It’s a lot of fun from start to end, the perfect movie to put your detective skills to the test with. This is a prime example of what makes mystery stories so much fun.

Just make sure you don’t watch it with a smart-ass. Mysteries are never fun when you’re watching them with a wannabe Sherlock Holmes.

So… never watch a mystery movie with me.

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