Knives Out [TIFF19 Review]

Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

Rian Johnson has developed into one of those filmmakers that I will go and see everything he puts on the screen. His fifth feature film had big shoes to fill, it has to follow his blockbuster Star Wars: The Last Jedi which grossed 1.3 billion worldwide. It’s a hard task to do but Johnson decided to do this by having an all-star cast and a modern take on the whodunit film that has been done over and over again in films. In Johnson’s hand, Knives Out becomes something special, a fresh take on the genre and a film that takes aim at today’s society.

Knives Out takes something we know and spin it around, makes it relevant again and doesn’t try to simply do what has been done before. That doesn’t just include the script but also the way it’s told. Johnson has an eye that can create beauty and shots that maybe others wouldn’t have done. But what makes it stand out is really the script. While some of the twists are predictable, some of them are very very clever and work well in the grand scheme of things. With a whodunit the plot will either work or fall apart, the killer will either be believable or not. Knives Out works for the most part because it plays against our expectations. It makes us believe multiple things at once, makes us believe that we know what will happen, makes us think we are clever and in charge when in reality, Johnson is.

With a strong script, Johnson assembled a strong cast, a cast that could not only play well off each other but also have fun with it. Of that stellar cast, Daniel Craig and Chris Evans are the ones with the juicy parts. Evans disappears in the role of the black sheep of the family, Ransom, clearly having fun with the part and not breaking from his Captain America image that we have associated with him. His introduction is such fun, earning laughs after laughs while he just sits there and insults everyone. Craig, who portrays Detective Benoit Blanc, continues what he did with Logan Lucky and finds himself a role that makes us forget 007. He is in top form the whole film and provides a lot of the humour, being able to utilize his skill as an actor and flex his comedic muscle, something we haven’t really seen him do. If Craig and Evans provide a lot of the comedy Ana De Armas (Blade Runner 2049) cement herself as a star with this role. She has the difficult task of often being the straight man of the situation and she excels at it.

It’s hard to tell you what I think about this film without revealing too much about the plot itself. Because the mystery of the killer is so important and weaved into the plot, it’s almost impossible to say something about a character without giving away something that is linked to it. What I can say is that every character in the film has a purpose to the story, none of them feel like an afterthought but they also all feel real. Johnson created a world where all of the characters feel like they have lived in it for a long time. They don’t feel secondary, even those who are, and all have a part to play in the mystery. It’s like a game of clue really, hell even one of the characters say that they are already living in the manor from the board game. I will also say that the way this film is able to go after the MAGA supporters without being outrageous is great, with simple little things and conversations that reflect so much of today’s world, it’s a great way for the film to be political without being only political.

Knives Out could have been a but in the capable hands of Johnson, we find ourselves with a witty and timely script. A whodunit that actually surprises you and makes sense by the end of it all. A film that proves that Johnson will be one of the filmmakers that will continue to provide original content for years.