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Rian Johnson Has “Knives Out” For Daniel Craig And Company, With Very Pleasing Results

Old fashioned murder mysteries clearly appeal to Rian Johnson. The filmmaker has an affinity for those long time entertainment staples, and it’s that affection that helps him so deftly sharpen and update the tropes in Knives Out, his fiendishly clever whodunit. With a star studded ensemble cast, strong writing, a total sense of play, and third act that truly comes alive, this movie has a lot going in its favor. For a while, you may wonder what all of the fuss is about, but by the time the credits roll, you’ll understand. It hits theaters tomorrow and is a fantastic option for any dysfunctional family on Thanksgiving.

The film is a crime dramedy/murder mystery, deftly mixing old school whodunit elements with a real new school approach. When famous crime novelist and family patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead following his 85th birthday party, the entire Thrombey clan is a suspect. Arriving at his sprawling estate, the one of a kind detective by the name of Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) has been hired to investigate the crime. He has no clue who has sent him an envelope of cash, but he’s determined to break the case. As he meets Harlan’s dysfunctional family, as well as his kindly staff, including his caretaker Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), suicide is initially suspected. However, motivations across the board keep Blanc poking around, and that’s where the fun really begins. The less you know about the actual plot, the better, especially since the discoveries, red herrings, and odes to the genre are such a delight. Rian Johnson writes and directs, with music from Nathan Johnson, as well as cinematography by Steve Yedlin. Making up the family are Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Katharine Langford, Riki Lindhome, Jaeden Martell, and Michael Shannon, while other supporting players include Frank Oz, Noah Segan, LaKeith Stanfield, M. Emmet Walsh, and more.

Among the cast, Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, and Chris Evans really stand out. For Craig and Evans, the sense of play here is infectious. There’s a clear joy on display, especially for Craig, with his southern accent. His slightly befuddling nature early on gives way to an ingenious bit of sleuthing by the time the climax is upon us. It may just be Craig’s best work to date. As for Evans, he’s just relishing a big character like this, someone as far from Captain America/Steve Rogers as possible. Then, there’s de Armas, who is truly the heart and soul of the flick. Her decency is what defines her, as well as what sets her apart. As much fun as everyone else is, this would not have worked without her heart.

Rian Johnson is relishing the opportunity to play with this genre. He mixes detective work, social commentary, and just plain fun in a way that’s expertly done. The sense of play we see in just about every frame is palpable, making this more than just a new exercise for him. Johnson took the opportunity to do something smaller after Star Wars: The Last Jedi and went to town, just looking to do something pleasing to himself. Luckily, it has also proven to please just about everyone else who has laid eyes on it. It’s often brilliant work by a wholly engaged and playful storyteller.

Knives Out might be too cool for Oscar voters, but that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t deserve a targeted Academy Award campaign. Efforts by Lionsgate in Best Picture, Best Director (for Johnson), Best Actor (for Craig), Best Actress (for de Armas), Best Supporting Actor (for Evans), Best Original Screenplay (also for Johnson), Best Production Design, and Best Film Editing would not be out of place. Now, for the Academy, it seems like Original Screenplay or bust, but the Golden Globes could really take to this one in the Comedy categories. Stay tuned there…

This week, mystery fans are in for a treat when Knives Out opens up. This movie should delight anyone who loves a good whodunit, as well as those curious to see Craig do something very different with his talents. The flick becomes more and more fun the longer it goes on, making the two hour and ten minute running time fly by. Had the first half been a little less concerned with trying to trick you (I figured out the twist fairly early on), this would be a perfect film. Still, it’s an excellent one and truly worthy of your time. Celebrate Thanksgiving with the treat that is Knives Out…

Be sure to check out Knives Out, in theaters everywhere tomorrow!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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