BFI London Film Festival: Knives Out

Knives Out
Knives Out
Directed by Rian Johnson
Starring Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer
Screening at LFF October 8th, 9th, 11th and 13th 2019

by Alex Plant

After his 2017 Star Wars effort The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson seemed to garner fanboys and detractors in equal measure. However, his follow up project, Knives Out, not only makes for a crowd-pleasing reinvigoration of the sleuth genre, but it might just be his best film yet.

After crime novelist extraordinaire Harlan Thrombey (Plummer) turns up dead the day after his 85th birthday party, eyes immediately turn to his bloodsucking family, who’ve been living off of him for years. Curiously though, none of the Thrombey brood seem to have a clear-cut motive for the murder. Enter Benoit Blanc (Craig), an eccentric, cigar-sucking Poirot-esque southern detective that may be the only person capable of identifying the killer and unraveling a mystery that could have come straight out of one of Thrombey’s novels.

Much like he did for Film Noir with Brick and Sci-Fi with Looper, Johnson has created a cine-literate contemporary take on the Murder Mystery that also manages to stand toe-to-toe with some of the best examples of the genre. There’s a wonderful commentary underlying the twists and turns of the plot (and they certainly are twisty) that touches on issues of privilege, immigration and even social-media hate-mongering. This doesn’t ever feel out of place or detract from the traditional elements of the genre, and, if anything, it enhances them. The Thrombeys’ beautiful labyrinthine manse is a character in its own right and is filled with trinkets, displays and architectural features that give it the air of a museum to crime-fiction.

It’s impossible to not mention the amazing cast Johnson has assembled. Forget Bond. Benoit Blanc is the coolest character Daniel Craig has ever played and he’s rarely felt more charismatic. Jamie-Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Chris Evans, Lakeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon and Katherine Langford all bounce off each other with wicked glee, and the overlapping interrogation scenes are a particular delight. However, the breakout star of this film has to be Ana de Armas, who provides a wonderful human lifeline amongst a sea of vicious eccentrics.

Knives Out is a gripping and entertaining blast from start to finish. Murder hasn’t been this fun in years.


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