In a year filled with superheroes, live-action remakes and sequels, there is a novelty factor for an original concept to come to theatres. Some could argue that Knives Out still plays on the well-worn concept of the whodunnit, but this dark comedy seems to bring forward something special in light of the current cinematic offerings. Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) writes, directs and produces this perfectly chosen ensemble cast for his own vision of the murder mystery that offers up some of the best laughs of 2019.
It is the 85th birthday of the best-selling crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) and all of his family is there to celebrate. Successful realtors Lynda and Richard Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson), their son Ransom (Chris Evans), the widowed, cosmetic business owner, Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette) and the writer’s personal nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas) gather around the octogenarian to prove their devotion to him. Along with other guests and employees of the family, they enjoy the time together and family squabbles occur around the house. The following morning Harlan Thrombey is found dead due to an apparent suicide, but nothing seems quite right.
After the funeral, the local police call the family back together to interrogate them once again at the request of the famed private investigator, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). The inspector has been given the task of determining if the novelist really took his life or if he had been murdered. Each interview opens the door to suspicion of every family member and household servant, but nothing is as clear cut as the coroner report seems to stipulate. Blanc must work his way through the various stories and be there to process the reaction of the family on the reading of Harlan’s will.
Knives Out makes it fun to go back to theatres again and gives hope to an industry that has suffered from the talent drain caused by streaming services. Johnson manages to masterfully weave together a story that takes more twists and turns than a Harlan Thrombey novel. The perfect balance of mystery, humour, and drama to make any fan of cinema hang on until the final reveal. Keeping everyone on the hot seat as possible suspects while keeping audiences off balance with the prospect that this is the death of a crime novelist. Did it really happen?
Daniel Craig strips off his James Bond alter-ego and immerses himself in the southern charm and wit of Benoit Blanc. Each member of the cast is given license to play a caricature of their character and the cast seem to relish in taking these roles to comedic and dramatic heights. From the type A personality of Jamie Lee Curtis’ real estate mogul to the free-spirited nature of Toni Collette’s character, they all represent the extremes of the typical family reunion.
Every actor has a purpose, each twist is justified and the writing provides a breath of fresh air for all who have suffered through every sequel this year. As a murder mystery and to deliver an honest portrayal of a dysfunctional family, there are mature themes and language. Despite these aspects, this is a film worth travelling to the cinema to experience and to remember what great films can offer to audiences. Let there be no mystery about this, you should go to see this movie, because it truly is a cut above the rest.
REEL DIALOGUE: How far can you take loyalty?
Loyalty is both fascinating and confusing. It is defined as being faithful to something on someone. People will put their money, careers and lives on the line for the sake of loyalty to family, friends or countries. In Knives Out, the characters base most of their decisions on what they will gain from their family, specifically the patriarch of the family. It begs the question, why do we choose to be loyal or faithful to someone else?
It seems to be rooted in wanting to place an implicit trust in the person we put our faith in and knowing that this loyalty will be reciprocated. The Bible plies a deeper meaning to the idea of loyalty. In the study of these words and evaluating human history, God is the only one that is completely faithful. He is faithful even when his followers are faithless. On the subject of loyalty, mankind's faithfulness can be fleeting, but with God we can find real loyalty and someone who is true to their word.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
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Russ Matthews works for City Bible Forum as the Engaging Manager. He enjoys developing large public forums throughout the city to engage workers with the bigger questions of life. He oversees The Edge and Reel Dialogue.