Movie Reviews movies

‘Knives Out’ is a stylized outfit for star-studded cast

And that includes Chris Evans’ cable knit sweater.

There hasn’t been a more exciting ensemble on screen since viewing the palpable chemistry, and rise and fall, of our favorite heroes in Avengers: Endgame earlier this year. I know it’s only been like eight months, but the fallout still looms large.

Director Rian Johnson comes out of the controversy cave fashioned by his last juggernaut, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, to dip himself into an equally complicated and twisted world: the whodunit murder mystery. In doing so, Johnson crafts one of the biggest pay-off films of the year.

Knives Out is pure suspense and escapism, all while managing to make the “whodunit” the least interesting clue worth cracking. And even with such a stacked cast, there are moments for astute levels of intricacy in both film-making and fact-finding.

The story centers around the Thrombey family, built off the work of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plumber), a renowned crime novelist. Harlan is found dead the night of his 85th birthday from what appears to be a suicide and soon-to-be closed case, but quickly morphs into a dramatic southern-drawl-of-an-investigation thanks to the introduction of detective Benoit Blanc (certainly the best name in 2019 cinema, and maybe ever).

Daniel Craig slips into the accent and accompanying charm with ease to coolly interrogate the Thrombey clan. Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis) is one of the most self-aware characters of the bunch, hammering Blanc for his intrusion, wearing her armor of electric colored pantsuits. She’s a real estate mogul by profession.

Her husband, Richard (Don Johnson), oozes of self despair, creeping for the right moment to infiltrate the Thrombey machine. He would fit perfectly, or rather imperfectly, among the Roy family dynamic on HBO’s “Succession.” As would Toni Collette’s Joni, widow of Harlan’s son Neil, who leads the influencer life and floats in and out of frame in delicate, flowery ensembles.

Michael Shannon plays Harlan’s youngest son, Walter, who runs the family publishing company, and is desperate to bring Harlan’s book empire to the screen. Shannon adds a different kind of bite to the otherwise comedic feel from the rest of the family.

Rounding out the cast beyond the talents of young up and comers Katherine Langford and Lakeith Stanfield, and the staggering veteran shadow of Plummer, are Chris Evans and Ana de Armas.

Evans is Ransom, Linda and Richard’s playboy son who wears that cable knit sweater the internet has been thirsting over for weeks. He’s the well-to-do-heartbreaker of the bunch.

Armas has no personal attachment to the family, besides being Harlan’s personal nurse and caregiver, Marta, who developed a strong bond with him in his last days. Their relationship is a tender plot point that would have been nice to be explored a little more.

A particular infliction of Marta’s also makes for an important comedic device to the amusement of Blanc, in particular.

All of these characters on their own make for the perfect suspect with the right motives in line, but together, there is a fuzziness that prickles detective Blanc and the members of the Thrombey clan. Even when the supposed killer is revealed right around the halfway point of the movie, there is a level of tension that remains within the confines of the Thrombey manor and the surrounding New England town.

Johnson takes the time to establish the manor as it’s own beast unto itself with all the carefully placed knickknacks, splashy wallpaper, and the occasional secret entrance. And the way the film is shot also adds a new layer.

Johnson’s dash of Hitchcock inspired film-making brings an area of stylized quirk, whether that’s zooming in on Blanc sitting dramatically by fireside, or slomoing a penultimate scene involving Marta and Ransom.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Knives Out is that it takes the time to establish it’s characters without losing an inch of it’s momentum. The Thrombleys and attached bystanders drive the narrative, but the story waits for no one. And that’s what makes a movie worthy of a second, third, and fourth viewing.

Rating: 9.5/10

A sneak peak of the sweater. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

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