It’s not often that a film starts getting almost unanimous praise from critics, so when this murder mystery from Rian Johnson started to garner attention from almost every direction, it left me wondering: what makes this film so good?
It centres around the family of Harlan Thrombey, a wealthy crime novelist, who is found having slit his own throat the morning after his 85th birthday. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is hired anonymously to try to uncover whether it was truly a suicide, or whether there was “foul play” (which I can tell you, there is).
Knives Out is definitely a traditional ‘whodunit’ film, but also, it isn’t. It’s traditional in the sense that it follows a familiar structure, yet manages to avoid all tropes of those lesser that have come before it. With a devilishly clever and witty script, Johnson has managed to sidestep the sombre atmosphere, all whilst maintaining this high level of suspense. Where other films may have lingered with a serious tone, Knives Out propels itself forward with moments of levity that brighten each scene, whilst the suspense keeps you hooked; not to give any spoilers, but this plot would really make Agatha Christie proud.
Where this film also sets itself apart from a plethora of others is the social commentary running throughout: Harlan Thrombey’s death will mean the inheritance of his significant fortune to his family members, but who will be getting what? Taking aim at the upper-class elite with themes of inherited wealth, nepotism, and strong right-wing views, Johnson pokes fun at the wealthy, littering the script with sharp digs and excellent plot details highlighting many of the obscene, eccentric characteristics of the elite. This is all presented in a very self-aware fashion, simply adding to the enjoyment and wit of the script.
Coming onto the cinematography, Johnson clearly has an eye for what he’s doing. With many low angles, close ups, and panning shots, Knives Out definitely doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to how they affect the scene. These are testament to how effective it can be for the writer to be the director, with each scene put together perfectly and often adding details that may have gone askew otherwise.
As a final mention, the whole film is tied together perfectly by an excellent (and star-studded) ensemble cast. With Craig at the helm, donning such an expertly done southern American accent that you almost forget he’s from Chester, we’re taken into the world of Benoit Blanc, yet forbidden to see the inner workings of his mind. However, the most inspired actress of this film is the perfectly cast lead, Ana de Armas, who’s performance as the kind-hearted Marta Cabreras couldn’t have been more engaging and truer to the character.
If you’re looking for feel-good film that goes beyond the shallow depths of many that seek to provide such levity, Knives Out is the perfect film to put you on the edge of your seat, and then knock you back into it with a barrage of wit and suspense to keep anyone thoroughly entertained until the very end.