A family is as sick as its secrets. The Thrombeys are a very sick family. They are lead by patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a writer of great mysteries whose final mystery will be that of his own death. His funeral, as any mystery writer could only hope for, is an intriguing whodunit where all of his loved ones are likely suspects. His writing has funded a great mansion and a high-end lifestyle for all of his relatives. They have come to celebrate his birthday – and subsequently, his death – in Rian Johnson’s hotly-anticipated follow up to his divisive Star Wars film. The director utilizes a supremely starry cast to aide his ultimate goal, of creating the great whodunit mystery of our time.
What’s profoundly effective about Knives Out is its social awareness. Mr. Johnson has made a cutting statement of intent against his critics. He has conveyed them as disposable privileged teenagers with more immersion in the fake construct of the internet, than engagement in real life. Handily, he has made an exceedingly progressive film which will enrage them and create a fervor of support in his followers. Among an astoundingly well-rounded cast, Ana de Armas takes center stage as a maid, the daughter of immigrants. She is closest to the patriarch and has an honest heart, leading to great suspicion amongst the family, as she spent some of the final moments with Harlan. She has always required a center stage act and gets to shine brightly here, proving her intrinsic talent with great empathy and understanding of her craft.
An absurdly-accented Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc, a detective in the classical tradition, modulating between “Kentucky-fried” charm and an endearing understanding of how to share the stage with his cast. It is Craig’s and Armas’ movie and they steal all their scenes and especially radiate must-see energy together. They are also surrounded by great talents, some of the best in the game. Of particular note are Jamie Lee Curtis (confident and in-charge), Toni Collete (tanned to a leathery crisp and out of her mind), Mark Hamill (clearly loving every minute working with Johnson, must become a regular of his), and Chris Evans (Captain America would not prepare you for his very funny and interesting turn). That’s scratching the surface of a who’s who whodunit that works off the strength of stellar performances.
Johnson’s reliable DP, Steve Yedlin, and editor Bob Ducsay do wonders for the film. The mansion they work with makes for the impressive set dressing with great minute details, relics of a life well-lived. The initial interviews of the family are set in a room with all his trinkets. The subject sets before a giant array of knives, a rich man’s sport collecting weaponry for display. There’s a grand piano, which Daniel Craig chimes on as the interviewees’ talk, signaling clues and lies. Lakeith Stanfield drives the objective interviewing, while Craig exploits the truth of the matter, in the gritty details. The cuts are just perfect. Handling such a great ensemble is an incredible task on its own. Ducsay makes it work seamlessly for Johnson, interweaving subjects and timeframes, lending invisibility to his process, so you know it works. And after, as they congregate and he follows the action, the way people disperse, the editing and camera work together to cue significant objects of interest and create an absolute immersion into the mystery of the story.
After as strong an opening as any whodunit, Knives Out loses a step in its second act. It tries to develop the mystery beyond its premise and slightly stretches the credulity of the case, making some outcomes obvious, as we experience them with the characters. Some clever writing work refigures these events later, finding a spin that matters for the story, but only after an act that strains the pacing out and leaves a sag in the middle of an otherwise tight yarn.
Knives Out functions as the rightful successor of its Clue (1985) progenitor. When it stays in the mystery and with all of the suspects, it holds a candle to any whodunit before. Strong acting from all sides, only let down by a couple funny accents, allow a great deal of suspense and justly appreciable comedy. A great showcase for Ana de Armas, whose career is primed to explode right now. Knives Out is a hell of a good mystery. Getting to the center of it and spending time with this cast is an absolute delight. Rian Johnson proves his merits once again in the passion project. Perhaps his greatest takedown of past critics is his great success with Knives Out.
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Alex Trebek and Mark Hamill are Both Fans of Rian Johnson's Knives Out Alex Trebek and Mark Hamill are Both Fans of Rian Johnson’s Knives Out By Jamie Jirak - January 10, 2020 03:05 pm EST 2020 has.
It looks like audiences have the cutting fan backlash to Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi to thank for the director's newest film — well, at least partially.
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During a panel at Deadline's The Contenders event in Los Angeles, Johnson explained how his highly publicized experience with online trolls after the release of The Last Jedi helped inspire elements of his upcoming black comedy murder mystery Knives Out.
'That's one of the things [Knives Out] engages with, the current state of online culture,' Johnson said. 'Whether you made a Star Wars movie or you have a cooking show, whatever you're doing on there, someone's going to be screaming at you about it probably. Let's put it on a screen in a way we can all maybe have a laugh about it.'
Knives Out follows the dysfunctional Thrombey family after their patriarch, 85-year-old crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), invites them to his remote mansion for what he hopes will be a celebratory reunion. Things go seriously sideways when Harlan is found dead, and detectives Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) and Lieutenant Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) are brought in to weed out his murderer. Inspired by various Agatha Christie adaptations, Knives Out positions everyone as a suspect — including Jaeden Martell's Jacob Thrombey, a character who tweets alt-right-affiliated hate speech online.
That may be Knives Out's most direct call to The Last Jedi's online critics, some of whom launched campaigns to decrease the film's audience score on review aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes and at one point started a petition to have Lucasfilm remove Johnson's movie from the official Star Wars canon. These types of reactions were only part of the critical audience wave against The Last Jedi, though, and not entirely indicative of its total reception. Just as there were several reasons why audiences didn't like Johnson's take, from the characterization of Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker to the inclusion of Kelly Marie Tran's character Rose Tico, there were just as many viewers who did.
While Johnson used some of the negative responses around his Star Wars installment to guide the narrative and tone of Knives Out, it's clear he still understands the complicated dichotomy around the franchise film's reception and, ultimately, online culture. The filmmaker told The Contenders crowd, 'Anyone who's on Twitter these days, God bless you because it's rough waters out there, but there's also wonderful stuff about it.'
Why is Rian Johnson addressing his Last Jedi critics again?
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Throughout the months of Last Jedi backlash, Johnson appeared to remain noticeably level-headed in the face of his critics. And during his appearance at The Contenders Los Angeles event, the Knives Out director seemed to have no doubts about his future with Lucasfilm and the Star Wars universe. Johnson is set to create his very own trilogy of films, which he previously teased will capture the spirit of the franchise as a whole.
'We're still engaged with Lucasfilm and we'll wait and see,' Johnson said. 'No updates on it at this moment, but yeah.'
So if Johnson's The Last Jedi wasn't struck from the canon and controversy around the film has (mostly) died down, why would the director bring it all back up? As Johnson explained, it has less to do with responding to critics themselves and more to do with him using that criticism to influence his modernized approach to the murder mystery genre. To give his Christie-inspired film — which stars big names like Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, and Michael Shannon — a truly present-day feel, Johnson tapped into all of today's technological tools (which are so often used as weapons) to craft a world and cast of characters befitting of a modern-day mystery.
'What we try and do is place it in modern day. That for me meant not just skinning it with cell phones, modern cars and music. That meant actually plugging it into 2019,' Johnson stated. 'We do character types who are slight caricatures of the type Agatha Christie used to do, but with people who for better or worse you could only meet in 2019.'
Overall, it's clear Johnson took the lemons lobbed at him post-The Last Jedi and turned them into the lemonade he sipped on while thinking up Knives Out. Taste the fruits of his labor when Knives Out arrives in theaters on November 27.