Finally, son Walt (Michael Shannon), daughter-in-law Donna (Riki Lindhome), and grandson Jacob (Jaeden Martell) also depend on Harlan’s success to survive. Walt is running the publishing company that handles Harlan’s novels but only has his job out of nepotism. Walt wants to adapt his stories into movies, but Harlan won’t allow it and is gladly willing to pass on millions of movie dollars.
Everyone has a motive for murder, but it’s trusted nurse Marta (Ana de Armas), who gets most of the screen time in Knives Out. The film tracks her character as she plays it cool, hoping the investigation will just blow over. Like a good thriller, things don’t go according to plans for Marta, and she heaps one lie upon another to hide the truth. Making matters worse, Marta has a considerable tell when it comes to lying, and everyone knows when she does.
“…throws in a twist on the genre early in revealing how Harlan dies and who did it.”
I miss murder-mystery thrillers of the past (Clue doesn’t count), and Knives Out is a breath of fresh air. It works as the mystery genre should. Let’s start with the cast. Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, and Christopher Plummer. A cast like this would never come together…unless it was an Avengers film. It has all your favorite character actors bringing to life great characters clashing in beautiful conflict. NOSTALGIA FOLKS!!! Let’s also not discount the youth either in Chris Evans, LaKeith Stanfield, Riki Lindhome, Katherine Langford, Noah Segan, and Jaeden Martell. So much wonderful family dysfunction and Grade-A narcissism on display—juicy performances all around.
The two stand-out performances are from Daniel Craig as the “Foghorn Leghorn” accented investigator. He’s overly quirky just enough to stand out from the other actors (of which there is over a dozen) and created a role that’s reminiscent of the bumbling, yet sly Columbo. Then there’s Ana de Armas, who’s pretty much the star of the film. She’s the down-to-earth immigrant nurse, who’s innocence and charisma grabs you immediately and make you hope she comes out of this mess unscathed.
The other element that works is Rian Johnson’s mystery. He throws in a twist on the genre early in revealing how Harlan dies and who did it. But he layers another mystery on top of that mystery. Johnson covers every base, and while there are elements you’ll figure out along the way, the truth of Harlan’s death will leave you convinced, satisfied, and make you want to see the film again. I also love that it’s a modern film using modern technology, storylines, and motives that resonate with present culture, which sets it apart from Agatha Christie adaptations from decades ago. NOTE: Rian Johnson goes into detail about the film’s setting in our interview with him.
Ultimately, Knives Out works because the mystery works. The all-star cast is just icing on the cake—a sweet, creamy icing. They don’t make mysteries like this anymore, so don’t miss out on this one. Because of current movie economics, there won’t be another one like it for a long time.
"…so much wonderful family dysfunction and Grade-A narcissism..."