“I suspect foul play” – Knives Out (BFI London Film Festival Review)

Rating:

After a family gathering celebrating his 85th birthday, famous crime novelist, Harlan Thrombey is found dead under suspicious circumstances. With his whole family as well as his confidant and nurse, as possible suspects, local police officers are joined on the case by famed sleuth Benoit Blanc who was hired by an anonymous client to solve the crime, just adding more mystery to Harlan’s death.

As a self-confessed enthusiast of Agatha Christie and all things connected to the murder mystery, Johnson’s script is almost a tribute to the traditions and elements that make up this genre. With the very bare minimum of obvious signposting such as whether a clue is useful or not, or whether a certain character’s absence is the key to the whole plot and the fact that Johnson has said he didn’t want to include red herrings means he is not only taking this very seriously but he is able to just have fun with the film and characters.

The family of suspects and the loyal friend and nurse as the outsider does seem like a very obvious set up for a story of this nature but as soon as you meet all the characters, with all their weird and wonderful quirks, it really doesn’t matter, you already feel like you’re part of the case and want to solve it. However, a major reveal does happen a little too early on in the film and could be construed as being a bit too predictable. BUT if you’re watching the film to just play the game then you’re missing the point of the film. It’s not about the ending, it’s about the journey and soaking up every little detail, right down to the insults the family throws at each other in overlapping arguments, it’s actually very funny.

Giving each of the family members a personality, no matter how small a detail always helps. They are indeed stereotypes that we are all fully aware of and enjoy seeing squirm under questioning. Standing aside from the family is Daniel Craig as Blanc, who is absolutely loving his role as the sleuth sent to solve the case. With an accent that stands out a mile from the rest of the cast and a laid-back attitude to a somewhat tragic incident, he commands the dramatic pauses he is given and really is the scene-stealer in the film.

The story may seem slightly predictable but the characters and the Cluedo-like house, which is fantastically kitted out with amazingly designed rooms, trick windows, and secret passages, it feels more like a character than a location. It’s a fun and at times very amusing fresh take on the usual period genre films, Johnson set out to make a ‘whodunnit’ set in modern times and he has more than delivered here with Knives Out.

Dir: Rian Johnson

Prd: Rian Johnson, Ram Bergman

Scr: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer, Noah Segan, Riki Lindhome

DoP: Steve Yedlin

Music: Nathan Johnson

Year: 2019

Country: USA

Running time: 130 minutes

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