I’m not even gonna create any suspense here. I loved Knives Out with all my heart. I know one could stop reading the review here. However, allow me to explain why it would be worthwhile to go out, pay theater prices, and enjoy a piece of cinema for a couple hours. There is much to praise here and so many reasons why this is worth one’s time.
Rian Johnson is one of the best directors working today. However, even more than his directing, he is a terrific writer. More on that to come later in the review, however. It would not surprise me at all if Johnson loved Clue as much as I do. For, while this is not a full blown comedy, it has the look and feel of that classic comedy. Any movie that takes me back to the feeling of watching Clue for the first time is a winner in my book. Knives Out joins the rest of Johnson’s catalog as a film with so many stunning shots made to make cinematography geeks squeal in absolute bliss. It’s a pretty movie and is directed with complete confidence. No shot, no edit, no performance, and no choice is out of line. It all comes together perfectly.
I will avoid talking much about the plot, because it is an incredibly easy movie to spoil and I will not dare do that. This is a movie that is meant for the audience to go in blind, and I will respect that. In place of talking plot I want to talk about my favorite aspect of the film; the writing. This screenplay written by Johnson is the most sure fire Oscar winner for Best Original Screenplay since Pulp Fiction. This is not something I would say lightly. There are so many dimensions to this story and themes Johnson is trying to convey that it is truly a master class of writing. Every single detail is important, and it’s a mystery that a member of the audience can piece together, but it is not gift wrapped. The audience has to work for it just as much as Daniel Craig’s character does. This is exactly how a whodunit should work. It’s also the kind of movie that has a lot to say about the world we currently inhabit. It does not shy away from those themes, but in fact it embraces then and calls it out as it is. I applaud this completely and I applaud Johnson for taking a chance and using a whodunit to examine this stuff. Much like, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Knives Out is a movie that takes chances and they all work for me. I can not gush over this screenplay enough. I truly hope it is one that film schools teaching screenplay will have students read.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
This is also really hard to talk about without giving too much away. There is a particular performance I want to delve deep into and talk about how that character is the perfect example of how to gain an audience's empathy, but in order to do so, it would be too revealing. One’ll know who I am talking about when they see it. It’s the main character of the movie and the audience never once loses sympathy for this person. Both performance and Johnson’s writing align perfectly on that score. As for the rest of the cast, they are all phenomenal. I am a big Daniel Craig fan; he is my favorite Bond. This is my personal favorite performance from him. It is equal parts entertaining as he is fascinating. I would love to see far more movies involving him. Another big stand out for me was Michael Shannon. In one particular scene, that dude did what he does best, and intimidated the absolute hell out me. I love watching all these actors work and Johnson gives them all plenty to chew on.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score compliments the film well. Once again, a lot of the musical cues reminded me a whole lot of Clue. Johnson knew full well what he was doing. It has a classic whodunit score. One hears the choice of music and can easily identify the kind of movie they are watching. It also makes good use of a good Rolling Stones song in the ending credits. So, bonus points.
As touched upon earlier, this has the look and feel of Clue. The house setting we spend the bulk of the film in is aesthetically pleasing. It takes place in an old mansion that looks and feels like an old mansion, and not just a large set with several different rooms that nobody would inhabit. Most of the sets also have a ton of personality to them.
Knives Out offers up some of the best cinema one could possibly ask for. It has the look of old Hollywood. It has the feel of a wacky hijinks movie like Clue. It has the heart and sensibilities of modern Hollywood. What Johnson has crafted here is the perfect whodunit for the modern age. It checks all the boxes and then some extra boxes for good measure. It is a film that takes chances and plays with the genre in such a smart and innovative way that it solidifies its place as the best film of the year and one of the very best of the decade. Rian Johnson has used the medium of film to tell a compelling story, get grade A performances from Grade A actors, all while taking chances and being entertaining. In my opinion, Knives Out is what a perfect movie should be. Unquestionably smart, but also stays entertaining at the same time. Knives Out is a cut above the rest.