Renowned mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) gathers his family to celebrating his birthday. There’s cake, drinking and an argument. The next morning, Harlan is dead, lying in a pool of blood with his throat slashed.
The family insists it was suicide.
But investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) isn’t so sure. As he picks through the happenings at the party, he finds more suspects than he anticipated.
So … whodunit? You’ll have to buy a ticket to find out.
Hilarious, joyful and filled with goofy twists, Knives Out will divert you from your own family this Thanksgiving. Director Rian Johnson (Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi) has great fun playing with mystery traditions. Cinephiles will enjoy its many tributes to great comedic whodunits, including Sleuth’s house with secret passages and characters inspired by Murder By Death and Clue.
Johnson’ spoofy send-up of the genre breaks tradition by giving us a huge piece of the puzzle up front. Freed to focus less on plot and more on the performances and snappy dialogue, we can enjoy a fantastic ensemble cast that is gnawing the scenery like they’ve been starved for weeks. It’s a wonder to behold.
Leading the way in set consumption is Craig, offering up a Southern-fried accent so terrible you can’t help but laugh. He’s camping it up as a mashup of Foghorn Leghorn and Poirot. He prowls the house, listening in on conversations and picking over teeny clues. It’s a delight to see Craig’s playfully great performance.
The family is a who’s who of actors, all gleefully embodying a myriad of neuroses and conniving behavior. Jamie Lee Curtis is Linda Drysdale, the tense, waspish eldest daughter. Captain America himself, Chris Evans, is Ransom, a spoiled grandson who’s never held a job and treats his family with contempt. Toni Collette is a daughter-in-law more interested in being a lifestyle guru than a mother. Michael Shannon is the baby of the family, in charge of publishing his father’s books. The kids put up a good front at the party. But when Blanc begins to press, the cracks in their relationships show.
The film’s biggest surprise may be the star turn from Ana de Armas, who plays Harlan’s nurse. Marta is privy to the family at their worst. She knows every argument, every betrayal, every suspicion. Does all that knowledge mean she can help find the murderer?
You’ll find a few red herrings so obvious they smell. Still, a few missteps don’t dull the edges of this sharp thriller.
With great performances and fun camera work, Knives Out is a thrilling whodunit that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser. If you’re in the mood to laugh, or need a few tips on how to get away with murder when your family gets on your nerves, this is the flick for you.
Good Whodunit • PG-13 • 130 mins.
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Corporate attorney Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) is making a name for himself as a litigator. On a visit home to West Virginia, he’s disturbed to find that locals believe Dow Chemical is polluting their water.
Bilott uncovers a wide-sweeping conspiracy by a company that will stop at nothing to shut up him and his clients.
Based on a New York Times article, Dark Waters might be a true story, but it’s also one we’ve heard. Whether you’ve seen Erin Brockovich, Silkwood or Michael Clayton, chances are you know that corporations don’t worry too much if they hurt people, as long as they’re not caught. Dark Waters doesn’t seem to add to the plot.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 126 mins.
Queen and Slim
A typical first date turns tragic when Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) are pulled over by a police officer. Though their offence is minor, the police respond with life-threatening violence. A split-second decision turns their normal date into a crime.
Queen and Slim barely know each other, but they become partners in crime, running from the law. The media has labeled them cop killers, but the black community views them as freedom fighters. As their legend grows, so does the danger. Can they escape an unfair justice system?
This isn’t a movie interested in making people feel good. It’s meant to give audiences a sense of the systemic racism facing black people in every element of their lives. Its Odyssey-like tone should make for a searing drama both artistically satisfying and deeply moving. Queen and Slim is a safe bet for making awards-season discussion.
Prospects: Bright • R • 132 mins.