After the trials and tribulations director Rian Johnson faced in the wake of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it is pertinent that his return is very much a smaller, lighter affair. Taking himself away from the space opera scene and the legion of angry fanboys who follow it, to the almost stage-like setting of a murder mystery with an all-star cast is shrewd business and a move that rewards both the director and the audience.
Seeing the likes of Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Don Johnson and Christopher Plummer hamming it up all in the name of an Agatha Christie inspired whodunnit is a sight we did not know we needed. So enthusiastic are the cast, it feels like the shackles are off for those who have otherwise been enveloped in franchises where they are not allowed such freedom of expression. Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis and in particular Daniel Craig relish playing the complete antithesis of the roles that have made them household names. Gone is Captain America’s nobility, Laurie Strode’s stoic nature & James Bond’s suave sophistication and replaced instead by greed, selfishness and exaggerated spins on decades old private eyes.
So good are the actors here, that the plot almost plays second fiddle. Rian Johnson will not allow that though, and in among the one-liners and bristling dialogue is a story of a dysfunctional family brought together by the death of their patriarch and, more importantly, the true money-make of the family. Christopher Plummer’s Harlan Thrombey has made his fortune writing crime novels, and his family have been more than happy to live off his name in the hope of one day getting a nice cut of the inheritance. His untimely passing brings everything into doubt, and marks the root of the family’s issues.
With a cast this big, it is hard for everyone to have their moment. And for better or worse, the likes of Jaeden Martell, Noah Segan, Katherine Langford and Lakeith Stanfield have little to do other than wait around for the story to progress. Despite the popcorn nature of Knives Out, it is a film that very much has a heart and that belongs to Ana de Armas. Her carer to Harlan outshines everyone else by simply being the most decent person in the film. Her Marta is the warm hug from an old friend we all crave, and if nothing else she truly shows how good people can be when circumstances may try to persuade them to do the most venal of things. The sheer amount of plot developments and continuous twists may leave some viewers scratching their heads at what is going on, but Rian Johnson keeps things flowing with handy narratives from Craig’s Kentucky Fried detective and a script so inventive and fun that it becomes easier to simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
Knives Out is in cinemas now