Film Review: Knives Out

16:06 October 28, 2019
By: Fritz Esker

The 2019 New Orleans Film Festival saved the best for last with Knives Out. It's a delightful throwback murder mystery from writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi). It's also in strong contention for my favorite film of the year so far.

Much like one of my other 2019 faves, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it's truly best to go into Knives Out without being spoiled. So I'll err on the side of revealing too little here. A mega-millionaire bestselling author (Christopher Plummer) dies in what initially seems like a suicide. His children and grandchildren (among them Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Michael Shannon) are all wondering how the inheritance will be divided.

However, things are not as they initially seem. A famous Southern private detective (Daniel Craig) shows up at the estate. He suspects foul play. Also involved in the proceedings are Plummer's loyal nurse (Ana de Armas), maid (Edi Patterson), and the local police (Lakeith Stanfield, Noah Segan).

What works so well about Knives Out? For starters, the performances are all excellent. While the film isn't exactly a comedy, there were a few moments that made me laugh out loud (and I rarely laugh out loud in the theater). The script is well-plotted, but completely fair in its storytelling. Too many movies with twists in them try so hard to shock and surprise but forget to make any sense. Of course a twist will surprise you if there's no way any reasonable person could've foreseen it happening. Knives Out features twists and turns (again, best to avoid spoilers), but they always make sense within the context of the story and the characters.

Supposedly, Johnson's next endeavor will be to create a new Star Wars trilogy. I liked The Last Jedi (even though opinions on the film are strongly divided), but I hope Johnson still makes original genre films for adults like Knives Out, Looper, and Brick in between Star Wars efforts.

If you want Hollywood to make clever, entertaining films for grownups, if you're a mystery buff who wants to see Hollywood making mysteries again (there's been a slight resurgence in the genre in recent years), or if you're just looking for a fun 2 hours at the movies, buy a ticket to Knives Out when it opens nationwide this Thanksgiving.

★★★ ½ stars (out of four)

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