After taking us to a galaxy far, far away with STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, director Rian Johnson returns with a very different kind of movie this November: KNIVES OUT. The film, which boasts an all-star ensemble that includes Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis, is a comedic mystery thriller about the family of a wealthy crime novelist who is murdered on his birthday.
Everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted in this twisty, surprising ode to Agatha Christie murder mysteries. Below, find out how Johnson, who also wrote the film, puts a clever and modern spin on the classic whodunit genre with KNIVES OUT.
KNIVES OUT pays homage to old murder mysteries in several ways, starting with the central figure. Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a famous and beloved crime novelist who has amassed quite the fortune, ensuring that his children never have to work very hard for anything. That has become something of a sore spot between Harlan and his offspring, however.
When Harlan mysteriously turns up dead after his birthday party, everyone becomes a suspect. While a pair of detectives (LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Segan) question the family and Harlan’s personal nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas), an eccentric private investigator played by Daniel Craig goes to work conducting his own inquiry, with surprising results.
Classic whodunnit films, especially ones from the '50s through the '70s, often had an ensemble cast of big-name actors, and KNIVES OUT is no different. We've noted that Harlan himself is played by the veteran actor Christopher Plummer. Harlan has a fairly large family: Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), who married a man named Richard (Don Johnson) and had a son named Jacob (Jaeden Martell from IT).
Then there's Harlan's son Walter (Michael Shannon, THE SHAPE OF WATER), who runs Harlan’s publishing business and is married to Donna (Riki Lindhome). Finally, Ransom (Chris Evans) is the youngest and most spoiled of the three children. There’s also Joni (Toni Collette), who was married to Harlan’s other son who died, and her daughter, Meg (Katherine Langford, “13 Reasons Why”).
Other key players include Nana (K. Callan), the family’s elderly matriarch who says very little but sees a lot, Edi Patterson (“The Righteous Gemstones”) as Fran, the family’s hired help, and Lakeith Stanfield (“Atlanta”) and Noah Segan (LOOPER) as the detectives investigating Harlan’s death.
But the most significant player in all of this is Marta, Harlan’s private nurse, played by Ana de Armas from BLADE RUNNER 2049. Marta is the outsider in the family, so naturally, everyone is suspicious of her relationship with Harlan.
Rian Johnson is no stranger to making satisfying mysteries and thrillers: His previous films include BRICK, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a high-schooler investigating the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend, and LOOPER, a sci-fi time-travel thriller starring Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. Johnson brought his love for and knowledge of classic detective novels and murder mysteries to KNIVES OUT, which is both an affectionate homage to and reinvention of those twisted tales.
KNIVES OUT is a classic whodunit, for the most part, but Johnson brings modern sensibilities to the film with a humorous and timely story about class differences and wealthy people tearing each other apart.
What really makes it a reinvention of the genre, however, is the way in which the identity of the killer is teased and ultimately revealed. Without giving anything away, KNIVES OUT approaches this mainstay element of the murder-mystery in a very different way than most films. The way it is handled is almost a twist. Ultimately, KNIVES OUT is more about how and why it was done rather than whodunit. It is certainly a wild and entertaining ride all the way to the end. And because the plush mansion in which the film takes place echoes the comfort of our theatres fitted with luxury lounge seating, why not upgrade your experience with plush, reclining seats with extendable footrests and all-reserved seating options?
All images courtesy of Lionsgate.