Knives Out (2019)

knives1With Knives Out, Rian Johnson returns to what he seems to do best- films full of artifice, manipulation both subtle and obvious, with plenty of twists and turns and entertainment. Its something that time travel movies (Looper (2012)), and whodunnit movies (Knives Out) are eminently suited to, especially when characters are your own creation and can act in whatever way best suits your movie and screenplay. Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) a famous mystery writer can suddenly take a 180 in behaviour and it doesn’t ring untrue because we haven’t seen him establish other tendencies in three other movies.

It doesn’t, ahem, suit established franchises like Star Wars and its characters who have established mythology and behaviour. But lets not go into that again.

So yeah- Knives Out. Turns out its a pretty great movie, a hugely entertaining entry in the whodunnit genre offering a labyrinthine plot in which super-sleuth detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig obviously relishing the opportunity to chew up the scenery like never before) is tasked with solving a complex murder mystery when it appears that Harlan Thrombey’s suicide is not as it seems. The conceit of the movie is that we are let in on what actually happened and once ‘in’ on the mystery we can still be manipulated by the film as we may not actually know what we think we know.

Its an absurdly old-fashioned film, in surprising ways, gathering an old-fashioned parade of star actors in its cast, like some Hollywood studio picture of old (Plummer, Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collete, Ana de Armas headlining… a list of talent old and new, with a few character actors like M.Emmet Walsh and Frank Oz thrown in for good measure). It reminded me considerably of Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 Murder on the Orient Express, a film I likewise enjoyed with its strong cast and old-Hollywood sensibilities. Paradoxically, of course, Knives Out is also very modern and feels very contemporary. Its a grand, almost intoxicating mix and I thoroughly enjoyed it. What in the world was Rian Johnson doing messing about in the Star Wars universe?

Knives Out is of course out on DVD and Blu-Ray, and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. 

15 thoughts on “Knives Out (2019)

  1. I found it a very enjoyable movie, very clever and deceptive, and funny too. Easily one of the more fun cinema experiences I’ve had in recent times.

      1. In a way yes, although I don’t tend to view a lot of the big effects movies in the cinema anyway. I actually saw this very recently, around the beginning of July when the outdoor cinemas in Athens opened up for business again. Movies seen under balmy Greek summer skies are always a pleasure.

      2. Its funny, when I read your original comment I pictured you in one of those old-fashioned picture palaces with the ornate plaster scrollwork and lush red paint/curtains, like the ones I frequented in town watching films in the 1970s/early 1980s. I don’t know why, maybe it was because of how old-fashioned Knives Out looked. I certainly didn’t imagine you watching it in the open air! I’ve never watched a film under an open sky (the most exotic was possibly 2001: A Space Odyssey in the Symphony Hall here with a live orchestra).

  2. Tom

    Wait for it . . . .

    Wait for it . . . .

    Waiiiiiiiit for iiiiiitttt . . . .

    There it is! There’s the swipe at The Last Jedi I was waiting for! Haha! Honestly, I thought this was going to break open into a full on rant. Which of course is always entertaining to read, particularly for a casual Star Wars person like myself. I like the new additions but I wonder if it’s telling of anything that I really wasn’t that bothered when I missed the final installment, The Rise of Skywalker. That movie came and went and I actually didn’t really care. Now, that could be me not being — in general — a passionate supporter, eagerly awaiting what comes next. Or, it could be more subliminal — something about the way the Skywalker trilogy was going just didn’t impel me to be a completionist this time. I will go back and catch up with the final one, but meh. Not right now. I’m wondering if some of that apathy rests on Johnson’s shoulders.

    Because on evidence of movies like this and Looper, the guy knows how to direct an interesting story. I loved Knives Out

    1. I really had to sit and calm down and fight the urge to rant. Johnson was clearly the wrong man for that film and was just left to run amok. Its so odd because on the whole, you can see that Marvel Studios control film-makers with its films… maybe a little less now than at the start of the series, but you know, they aren’t going to let some director depict Peter Parker as a drunk or turn Captain America into some kind of bitter hermit who no longer believes in America. So why did Disney treat Star Wars so crazily? I don’t entirely blame Johnson for killing Star Wars, JJ Abrams had a big hand in that and Rise of Skywalker kicked the corpse off the cliff. Now excuse me, I have to go sit down in a corner with a paper bag for a little while…

    1. Yes it was really fun, and I’m looking forward to re-watching it. I’m looking for the 4K disc to drop in price a little but I’m curious about the lengthy doc and commentary tracks on there- Knives Out is one of those films that I’m really interested to learn more about the story behind it.

  3. Matthew McKinnon

    …”manipulation both subtle and obvious, with plenty of twists and turns and entertainment.”

    This sounds like a description of The Empire Strikes Back.

  4. It’s funny that, in a time when “only mega-budget superhero movies can make good box office”, two old-fashioned murder mysteries (this and Orient Express) have both performed well enough to provoke sequels. It’s almost like if you don’t spend too much money and find something to offer audiences who aren’t just interested in computer generated spectacle, there’s still money to be made…

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