A Rian Johnson Whodunit is something the film industry and myself desperately needed this year. 2019 was a year filled with heavy cinema, from cathartic bear-burnings to astronauts with daddy issues, it’s safe to say I cried a lot in the theatre this year, and Rian Johnson’s Knives Out was the perfect pick-me-up.
The film begins with the striking image of two dogs running in slow motion to classical music, unfurling everything underneath them as the run towards the camera, with an aristocratic house looming in the background. This shot itself is captivating enough, but if that doesn’t immediately hook you, the mysteries of the film begin to unfurl themselves right away. It is revealed the patriarch of the well renowned Thrombey family – Harlan (Christopher Plummer) – committed suicide in his study on his 85th birthday. With a police investigation currently underway at the Thrombey estate, the next twenty minutes of the film, showcase rapid and witty police interviews that bounce back and forth in point of view, and showcase each of the Thrombey children and their spouses. Then, in comes hired private investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) who believes that something more sinister took place on the night of Harlan’s death.
From the beginning, Rian Johnson spells out “big reveal,” for the audience, but does it in such a subtle way, it took me three separate watches to notice certain clues. In Knives Out, everything means something, whether that be the barking of the family dogs or the camera discreetly hiding someone’s face, Johnson peppers in clues along the way of this mysterious journey. We, along with Blanc and our protagonist Marta (Ana De Arms) are witnessing the plot-twists and unraveling right as they happen. These hints are so well crafted, and the film is so engaging that you don’t even have time to ponder that the mention of a character being the only person that could beat another character at a board game, solves the whole mystery.
It’s not just the plot that’s striking about the film, it’s also the dialogue. Rian Johnson knows what he’s doing, and crafted this film to truly feel like it takes place in our modern world. Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette) is an instagram influencer; there’s a harsh debate at dinner about a certain president keeping migrant children in cages; a joke about Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell), the alt right troll of the family masturbating in the bathroom at his grandfather’s 85th birthday, and Lieutenant Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) says “weaksauce,” three times in the span of two minutes. How can you not love a film that let’s Lakeith Stanfield say “weaksauce“? And at that three times?
Knives Out is a slick and smart murder-mystery that doesn’t try to shy away from the divided world we live in. With political commentary sprinkled in enough not to overpower the films fun and sharp journey, the film is definitely one of the most thought provoking, and funniest of the year. With stellar performances, gorgeous cinematography and top tier direction, Knives Out is sure to go down in history alongside Alfred Hitchcock’s best delves into the genre. If that isn’t enough to enthrall you, did I mention Lakeith Stanfield says “weaksauce” three times?