Don’t you love when the underdog wins? When the rich, privileged, and the obnoxious lose out (unless of course you rich, privileged and obnoxious)? Well, it is not happening in real life (Hello Borris), but we can recreate an alternative reality on the cinema screen, can’t we? Director Rian Johnson delivers a perfect whodunit laced with perfect ironies with Knives out. It would be sloppy to label it as a mystery thriller. The mix of family drama and an investigation keeps you engaged the whole time.
Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a man of great intellect. He has built an empire based on his mystery novels. While the world sees him as a great writer, he sees himself as a failed parent. His daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), her husband Richard (Don Johnson), and their son Ransom (Chris Evans) are simply put selfishly obnoxious. They look at life as a business deal. His son, Walt (Michael Shannon) runs a publishing company that runs on the basis of his dad’s books. Yet he wants a lot more. Joni (Toni Colette), the widowed daughter-in-law, is as entitled as they come. Grandkids, Jacob (Jaeden Martell) is defined as a Nazi, while Meg (Katherine Langford) is self-righteous to the bone. It’s one horrible mess, which Harlan now wants to fix.
Before his 85th birthday, he confides with longtime nurse Marta (Ana de Armas). On the day of the celebration, he shows some tough love and makes his family deeply unhappy. Later that night, he is found dead in mysterious circumstances. Enter two police detectives (Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan) and one private detective (Daniel Craig). Things start at a slow pace. But the secrets of the family come out one by one. They are unmasking the ugliness of their ‘loved ones’ unabashedly.
Pieces of evidence are found, some examined, some forged. The story takes you in one direction but spinners are thrown every so often. Soon, we begin to piece together the mystery but the director has one more trick up his sleeve. Things move at their own pace, but there is always something going on. For example, the interaction between the family members are reflective of modern America. The Alt-right crusader and the supposed feminist warrior are equally greedy. The filmmaker isn’t simply interested in telling you a murder mystery. Rather there are other aspects he shines his light on. The psychological aspects of individuals and how survival instincts kick in. That makes the film super appealing.
All this brews beautifully aided by Nathan Johnson nerve tickling’s music and Steve Yedlin’s apt cinematography. In various sequences, you will notice the choices made by Steve to enhance your viewing experience. It pushes the narrative forward. Most of the actors on the show are household names and it shows.
Knives Out is an interesting portrayal of modern America in the backdrop of a murder mystery. For me, even a second viewing is merited.