Director Rian Johnson scores again
When Detective Benoit Blanc first opens his mouth, the affectation of his dripping Southern dialect feels like a put-on.
A character later spot-on identifies what we were thinking: Foghorn Leghorn. Oh, and this voice? It’s coming from James Bond.
Daniel Craig’s southern-fried Sherlock Holmes is at the heart of the whodunnit of Rian Johnson’s utterly delicious “Knives Out.” And he’s just one of dozens of joys in a movie that’s not only one of the year’s best films, but also one of its most purely entertaining from start to finish.
The family of a famed crime novelist named Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) have gathered at the massive family estate to celebrate his 85th birthday. He’s found dead the next day.
As Craig’s Blanc drawls, “I suspect foul play. I have eliminated no suspects.”
And the suspects in the wealthy and eccentric Thrombey family provide no shortage of memorable characters for the year’s best ensemble to dive into.
Trust me when I say I’ve only given the set-up for a wonderful maze of red herrings and twists that are rewarding no matter how deep you dive in. I’ve seen this one twice already, and I look forward to more viewings.
Depending on your viewpoint, writer-director Johnson is coming off of making either one of the worst or best “Star Wars” movies with “The Last Jedi." (I’m firmly in the “best” camp.) “Knives Out” is such a fun divergence from those blockbusters, and his return to the pulpy noir of his first film, “Brick,” has moved him up my list of favorite directors working today.
Then you throw in that cast. Craig and Plummer are joined by <deep breath> Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, LaKeith Stanfield and a breakout Ana de Armas. Whew.
But perhaps the greatest achievement of Johnson’s script is making the classic whodunnit feel fresh again.
There’s sly nods to influences like Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie and even “Murder, She Wrote.” But it’s also perhaps the perfect movie for a holiday season when everyone is desperately hoping that politics don’t come up during family gatherings.
In a movie that is almost unendingly entertaining, Johnson also slides in some jokes tied to the family’s political views. The whole affair is a commentary on the bizarre world of the ultra-wealthy, as well as a morality tale.
But like another of this year’s very best movies, “Parasite,” it’s all wrapped up in an engaging and consistently hilarious bow.
I have a tendency to qualify a lot of my most fawning reviews by saying, “This one’s not for everyone.” I’d just about give you a money-back guarantee on “Knives Out.” See it as soon as you can before everyone starts talking it to death.