LFF 2019 ‘Knives Out’ Review: Rian Johnson is On Point

A wealthy mystery novelist (Christopher Plummer) dies on his 85th murder under mysterious circumstances. Whilst it appears to be suicide, there are some strange details that require the attention of detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) who enlists the assistance of the novelists carer (Marta Cabrera). Together they investigate the suspicious family and unusual death.

Rian Johnson’s films are best characterised by their unpredictability. What starts as a police procedural and standard forensic examination of the crime and it’s suspects soon becomes a riveting crime caper and a riveting thriller. As the story changes direction, the mystery lends itself to audience participation. Just enough red herrings are deployed to ensure the audience has plenty to speculate about. There’s a sense of foreboding and that the film is effortlessly weaving strands that will be important come the end. The climax does not disappoint, as without cheating the audience it delivers a surprise filled final act.

With such a large roster of characters it’s important that the performers are doing what they can with limited screen time. Johnson has filled his cast with superb character actors. Performers like Michael Shannon, Jaimie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson and Toni Colette are able to be immediately believable and interesting. The way they work together and when isolated by the police is eminently watchable.

Not everyone is quite fully utilised. The incredibly funny Lakeith Stanfield is essentially in the Lestrade role and doesn’t have all that much to do. It’s no bad thing to come away from a film wishing to see more if it and it’s world.

The production design and cinematography create a charming old fashioned opulence, a quirky backdrop for this drama. The campy quality of the scenario is echoed in the humorous details of the manor. Every painting seems to have a secret behind it hinted at by the contents of the painting. It encourages the audience to scan the frame looking for clues to the next twist. The film revels in twisting the knife.

Knives Out is exactly as thrilling and clever as this premise needed to be. It’s a charming crime drama which never takes its eyes off of it’s most charming character. As an ensemble piece it’s well balanced and as a whodunnit it’s just exquisitely plotted. A genuine pleasure throughout.

Five Stars

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