[REVIEW] ‘Knives Out’: Murder and Mirth at Thrombey Hall

knives-out

One aspect of covering Hallmark movies for my podcast, The Hallmarkies Podcast, that might surprise some people is I find myself talking about murder mysteries quite often. In fact, they have an entire channel called ‘Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’, which is devoted for most of the year to what are called ‘cozy mysteries’. Similar to Murder She Wrote these stories are about amateur sleuths who help uncover the culprits behind usually quite grisly murders in their midst. They have to be enjoyed with a grain of salt as typically the clues don’t stand high scrutiny but they are fun escapism where we can all envision ourselves cracking the case.

In director Rian Johnson’s new film Knives Out we get a taste of this type of murder mystery but on the big screen (there is even a recurring gag about Hallmark cozy mysteries throughout the film!). I was as skeptical as anyone going into this film as I have not been a huge fan of Johnson’s previous work in Looper or The Last Jedi. However, I am delighted to tell you he has made a very entertaining film that will keep everyone guessing from beginning to end.

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First of all, the cast is outstanding. Daniel Craig steals the show as Detective Benoit Blanc: a man who is hired by a mysterious benefactor to look into the death of famed author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Upon arriving at the house Blanc begins questioning all involved including Thrombey’s relatives and the staff of the home.

Ana de Armas stars as Thrombey’s nurse and close confident. She is helpful for a detective because she cannot lie without throwing up. Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis and more all do entertaining character work. I also really enjoyed the production design of the house and the music by Nathan Johnson.

All that said, it comes down to the script. Johnson manages to have huge exposition dumps but make them entertaining. A recent comparison can be seen in the 2017 version of Murder on the Orient Express which wasted a similarly gifted cast on exposition that landed with a thud. The key difference is Johnson isn’t taking his film deadly serious where Branagh was so we as viewers can sit back in awe at each new reveal. It’s a blast!

Like I said with the Hallmark cozy mysteries, Knives Out, needs to be taken with a grain of salt and enjoyed as fun escapism. The characters are kooky and the twists surprising, which makes for a really good time at the theater. I highly recommend it.

8 out of 10

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2 thoughts on “[REVIEW] ‘Knives Out’: Murder and Mirth at Thrombey Hall

  1. I enjoyed this movie a lot, too. I watched it because I tried to go to the theater to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, only to be told that was actually playing at the theater across the street, but that it had its last screening for the day. So I went to see this because it was one of the films starting soon, and I looked up its 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating online, and saw that it was a murder mystery, which I like.

    So I was expecting it to be good. And it did not disappoint, either. This was a very engaging, well-written film, and a good mystery to boot. I had to admit that I realized the mystery was not entirely solved, even after the flashback where we see how Harlan died. But I didn’t predict the twist.

    (Spoilers follow.)

    Instead, I actually thought it would turn out that Harlan had been responsible for switching the medications himself. He did say that he wasn’t afraid of death anymore, after all, and it was suspicious how easily he accepted the knowledge that he had overdosed, and how quickly he comes up with the plan to keep Marta out of jail, not to mention how willing he was to cut his own throat.

    I did suspect that Harlan hadn’t actually overdosed, and that they should look more closely at the pill labels, when it was clear Harlan wasn’t suffering any ill effects.

    I enjoyed Game Night, too, and I think I just really like simple, old-fashioned movies like this. It was refreshing to see an Agatha Christie-style story told without adding any modern, self-aware take or cynicism. And I’m glad to know a movie like this can still be made. It was a big improvement over Rian Johnson’s first film, Brick, which kind of does the same thing, telling a Dashiell Hammett story in a modern setting. The difference is there, it didn’t really work for me, because the story didn’t seem to fit the setting, and modern teenagers talking like 1940s private eye characters and using phone-booths was very jarring to me. It felt like a student film, and an exercise in style over substance. Knives Out is different because the Agatha Christie-style story still makes sense in the modern setting, and the characters act realistically for the most part.

    And I was surprised at how well Daniel Craig could do a Southern US accent!I enjoyed this movie a lot, too. I watched it because I tried to go to the theater to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, only to be told that was actually playing at the theater across the street, but that it had its last screening for the day. So I went to see this because it was one of the films starting soon, and I looked up its 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating online, and saw that it was a murder mystery, which I like.

    So I was expecting it to be good. And it did not disappoint, either. This was a very engaging, well-written film, and a good mystery to boot. I had to admit that I realized the mystery was not entirely solved, even after the flashback where we see how Harlan died. But I didn’t predict the twist.

    (Spoilers follow.)

    Instead, I actually thought it would turn out that Harlan had been responsible for switching the medications himself. He did say that he wasn’t afraid of death anymore, after all, and it was suspicious how easily he accepted the knowledge that he had overdosed, and how quickly he comes up with the plan to keep Marta out of jail, not to mention how willing he was to cut his own throat.

    I did suspect that Harlan hadn’t actually overdosed, and that they should look more closely at the pill labels, when it was clear Harlan wasn’t suffering any ill effects.

    I enjoyed Game Night, too, and I think I just really like simple, old-fashioned movies like this. It was refreshing to see an Agatha Christie-style story told without adding any modern, self-aware take or cynicism. And I’m glad to know a movie like this can still be made. It was a big improvement over Rian Johnson’s first film, Brick, which kind of does the same thing, telling a Dashiell Hammett story in a modern setting. The difference is there, it didn’t really work for me, because the story didn’t seem to fit the setting, and modern teenagers talking like 1940s private eye characters and using phone-booths was very jarring to me. It felt like a student film, and an exercise in style over substance. Knives Out is different because the Agatha Christie-style story still makes sense in the modern setting, and the characters act realistically for the most part.

    And I was surprised at how well Daniel Craig could do a Southern US accent!

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