Be warned all ye who enter. Knives Out is a complex and wonderful film about a rich and toxic family at the centre of a shocking crime, and the Poirot-inspired detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who sets out to catch the culprit. There’s not too much else I can say about the plot without giving it away – so I won’t. Instead I’ll try and spend a few hundred words telling readers why they should watch it. Does that sound fair?
Here goes: Considering that Rian Johnson’s recent filmography has included 2012’s Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, his latest work – an eventful and hilarious whodunit with an unrivaled cast – is unexpectedly theatrical. Dropping the cinematic quality that made Looper and Jedi among the best action movies of their years of release, Knives Out has more in common with the Breaking Bad episodes Johnson helmed. But it also has a quirky and whip-smart sense of humour that, alongside an absurdist sensibility closer to Samuel Beckett than George Lucas, makes it one of the films of the year.
And then there’s the cast. Daniel Craig leads an ensemble which also includes Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thombey, a celebrated crime writer and the family patriarch, Chris Evans as bratty grandson Ransom, Ana De Armas as the disregarded nurse Marta, police detective Lakeith Stanfield and influencer in-law Toni Collette.
All are at their very best and, impressively for a roster so big, no one is wasted. Craig, Plummer and De Armas are the particular standouts, with De Armas in particular deserving of all the praise she’s getting. Craig is truly liberated from the character he has played for over a decade and seems to enjoy less and less with each iteration – as it seems, do we. His Benoit Blanc holds the film together but is also underpinned by a memorable comic performance only those who saw him in Logan Lucky will know to expect.
As a reasonably high budget original studio comedy from a credible director and choc-full of great performances, Knives Out plays like what Hollywood has been missing for some time. It’s subversive and funny and will probably grab your attention early and keep it. It might also disturb you in parts, and leave you wanting more, and asking yourself why that is. But it deserves your undivided attention nonetheless – whether you’re ready for it or not. Be warned all ye who enter.