Knives Out is fantastic. It’s funny, clever, well-written, and well-directed. None of the humor is forced, cringy, or cheesy. Many of the jokes reference present-day trends and politics, but it never seems like writer-director Rian Johnson is trying too hard to make the film relatable to the audience. Although the film does follow a classic whodunit formula – discovery of the crime, interviews with the suspects, the following investigation – its premise is very original. The way the events pan out are creative and unexpected. The story itself is very tight and clean; there are no gaping plot holes as the film literally explains everything. Everything that happens was previously hinted at, but everything is very subtle and keeps the audience engaged as a result.
The film would not have been nearly as good if it weren’t for the actors. Every member of the Thrombey family is unique – distinctive – and they all shine in their own ways. Chris Evans came across as over-the-top in the trailers, but in the context of the film, he fits right into the ridiculousness of the Thrombey family. The family dynamic is so fun because all of the characters are so eccentric. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the eldest of three who all benefitted from their father’s tremendous wealth, and her character insists that she started her company from the ground herself, and that her husband works for her. The two youngest members of the family, a juuling feminist and an active member of alt-right twitter, provide underrated and entertaining interactions. My personal favorite member of the family was Toni Collette as a lifestyle guru and essentially Gwyneth Paltrow.
The biggest standouts of the film were the two leads, Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas. Craig plays Detective Benoit Blanc, who has a strange southern accent that somehow works. His character has some of the best lines, including a comparison between a will reading to a tax return by a community theater and a long monologue relating donuts and donut holes to missing evidence. On the other hand, de Armas’s character is much more unassuming, but rather than being a stereotypical Latina maid, she is the heart of the film. Marta is charming, sweet, sly, and ruthless all at the same time. De Armas’s performance shows that she is an actress to be on the lookout for. Since moving to Hollywood where she immersed herself in English lessons, she has starred alongside Robert De Niro, Jonah Hill, and Ryan Gosling. De Armas has spoken about her being able to relate to the character of Marta – both wanted a better life for themselves and their family.
It’s clear that writer-director Rian Johnson took great care in creating the character of Marta, and into allowing a newer actress to shine alongside some of the biggest names in the movie industry today. It’s clear that all of the actors had a blast on set, and it’s impressive that Johnson was able to create a film that is both character and plot driven. Johnson could have easily channeled his efforts into one aspect or the other, but instead he was able to weave absurd characters into an outrageous storyline, resulting in a film that is nearly, if not flawless.