After months of anticipation, I finally went to see Knives Out with my mates the other day. My expectations were sky-high, which is always dangerous. It made it a very, very difficult task to live up to my expectations. I’d watched the trailer a million times, watched all the press junkets, and had banged on about it non-stop. I’m a huge Rian Johnson fan, and had grown up with Agatha Christie/Sherlock Holmes novels, so the ‘Whodunnit’ genre has a special place in my heart. So how could a film full of my favourite actors/actresses, directed by one of my favourite directors, in one of my favourite genres, ever live up to my lofty expectations. Well, it didn’t just live up to them. It exceeded them by some distance. So brace yourself for a rambling of how amazing this film is, while trying to exclude any spoilers so my girlfriend/family can watch it, because I will definitely be encouraging them to.
First off, you have to watch this spoiler-free. Seriously. it’s essential. The film is still amazing and enjoyable, and I can’t wait to see it again, but nothing can compare to the joy of being in the dark on the first watch. So don’t, as Zaveri frequently does, read the plot on Wikipedia before you go and watch it. I’ve thought a lot, and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a film this much since Baby Driver. Just in terms of sheer enjoyment, ignoring quality, I don’t think I’ve seen a film this enjoyable in a really, really long time. There’s been plenty where I’ve appreciated the quality, but just in terms of cinematic pleasure and enjoyment, very few compare. Every single one of the cast, and that is not an exaggeration, is absolutely excellent, although Daniel Craig and Chris Evans do steal the show slightly. I do think that Craig’s southern drawl saying “I suspect foul play. I have eliminated no suspect” could go down as a classic film quote. But the entire cast is amazing. I could run through them all individually, because each character is very much an individual, but just trust me, they’re awesome. Johnson gives these serious actors the chance to just cut loose and enjoy themselves, and my god do they do that. Fans of Hereditary will find it hard to even recognise Toni Collette in this role. The film balances mystery, comedy, creepiness and themes of class and racism beautifully, never shoving them in your face, rather blending them all together into a perfect cocktail. With a film focussed on story, it’s never nice for social themes to be thrust in your face (*cough* Joker *cough*), but Johnson weaves them in with elements of comedy and farce that make them just lurk in the background, without being intrusive. There’s a running joke about Marta’s nationality that is hilarious, and says a lot about the family.
Johnson is a storytelling genius, and in this film he has a number of tricky tasks that he excels at. Firstly, stay faithful to the ‘Whodunnit’ classics. Done. Secondly, do something original with the genre. Done. Thirdly, manage to introduce about 10 characters and still have us remember all their names and know immediately what they’re all like. Done. The genre in particular has been done to death in literature and television mainly, so bringing a fresh take is more than welcome in the current cinematic climate. Without spoiling too much, all I’ll say is that the film is simultaneously what you expect and what you don’t. Its unpredicatablilty is what makes it spectacular, and an amazing watch. There are points where you think you’re starting to figure it out, but trust me, you are not. Johnson is always one step ahead, knowing when to pull us in and when to pull the rug out from under us. Each character is just as suspicious, intruiging and farcical as the other. I actually think the film would make a remarkably good play, with the right cast of course. Fundamentally, the film is about the truth, and what makes a good person. Every second of the film, every scene is telling us something about ‘truth’ and giving us a different idea of what we think of each character.
Again, it’s hard to go too much into this film without spoilers, but what I will say is that I thought at one point the film had let me down, and wasn’t what I’d signed up for. God was I wrong. The plot is ingenious, and I’m excited for the next watch, already knowing the end. Craig, Evans and Di Armas are undoubtedly the stars, but the calibre of all the actors and actresses tells you how great they all are. The characters are absolutely bonkers. When Lakeith Stanfield is your ‘straight man’, that’s how you know your characters are crazy. The music is excellent, the camera work innovative and interesting enough to separate it from the typical ‘blockbuster’, if you can call it that. It goes into a tough category at the Golden Globes, but I really hope it wins a few. Craig at least, certainly deserves one, although maybe not over Taron Egerton. This film probably jumped to top 10 on my all-time list, at least top-20, I really can’t recommend it more. It’s easy to watch, fun, and thought-provoking. Watch it.
Best Scene: Ransom’s arrival
Best Character: Marta
Best Actor/Actress: Daniel Craig
Best Quote: “Eat shit. Eat shit. Eat Shit. Eat shit. Definitely eat shit” – Ransom