Rian Johnson shows a modern take on a classic mystery
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019) is a film with marvellous writing and great performances, that work in harmony to make the movie theatre experience enjoyable. Johnson, who writes and directs this film, does an excellent job of modernizing a whodunit, making it feel both reminiscent of the past and deeply rooted in the present. It’s a great example of how to make a movie that is complex in its writing yet easy to understand — a film that can be appreciated by cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike.
The story is effectively told through its writing and direction. The screenplay is crafted with complexity and subtlety while managing to still be fun and, most importantly, unpretentious. There are superb elements of foreshadowing that make Knives Out worthy of second and third viewings. The pacing is also excellent, speeding up when necessary but taking breaks to slow down, spend time with the characters, and understand their thoughts. The plot twists in the film are set up in an intelligent way and are well-deserved when revealed, while playing with the structure of a whodunit in a fresh and awesome way.
Of all its twists and turns, what struck me the most was the unexpected lead character. Ana de Armas plays Marta Cabrera, the nurse to the patriarch of the Thrombey Family, Harlan, (portrayed by Christopher Plummer). Walking in, I expected a classic murder-mystery where the audience follows the detective. Instead, we watch the chaos unfold through Marta’s eyes. Having the perspective of the film come from the eyes of an immigrant girl who is overlooked by a rich family makes for a unique and fascinating choice that, frankly, I respect Johnson for. There’s no doubt that the entire cast is exceptional and hilarious, but de Armas’ performance really brought it home for me with her ability to create a character that audiences can sympathize with and understand, while also being funny and headstrong.
Chris Evans also makes a strong departure from his iconic role as Captain America in exchange for something much more mean and brash, and does an awesome job. Daniel Craig plays a detective with a wicked Southern accent and seems to be having much more fun than he does in Bond films, while Toni Collette is hysterical as a shallow Instagrammer and mother.
Everything about the film is well-crafted, and every detail is important and looked after, from the way Craig’s character takes off his shoes at crime scenes to the dishes characters hold. Everything says something, and they all add up to make a fun, thrilling film that doesn’t make the mistake of pulling out plot points from thin air.
Knives Out can be enjoyed by almost anyone. For a movie with a classic mystery set-up, it carries a lot of weight in our contemporary culture as it deals with politics and money in family dynamics in a humorous way.
Graphics by @sundaeghost.