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With Clever Framing and a Reliable Cast, KNIVES OUT is a Playful Mystery that Keeps You on Your Toes5 min read

20 November 2019 4 min read


With Clever Framing and a Reliable Cast, KNIVES OUT is a Playful Mystery that Keeps You on Your Toes5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

A detective and a trooper travel to a lush estate to interview the quirky relatives of a patriarch who dies during his 85th birthday celebration.

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Christopher Plummer

Year: 2019

Country: United States

Language: English

Runtime: 130 minutes

If you’re not already drawn in by the star-studded cast of Knives Out, then maybe the Agatha Christie vibes of the movie will catch your eye. If not, what about the retro mood? Or Daniel Craig speaking with a strong Southern accent? 

Knives Out, in all its quirkiness and splendour, is a familiar concept to fans of classic murder mysteries: the wealthy Thrombey family is gathered back at the regal Thrombey mansion after the apparent suicide of the family’s patriarch. Why? A mysterious but renowned private investigator dramatically reveals, “I suspect foul play.” Like many of Agatha Christie’s much loved books, and even in the more recent adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express (2017), everyone appears to be hiding a secret, and everyone is a suspect. 

The premise of the movie makes it clear what the audience is signing up for: a classic case of “Who dunnit?” that will keep you guessing until the very end. But of course, director and writer Rian Johnson takes the trope and gives it his own spin. While retaining the dramatic gasps and riveting revelations, Knives Out tosses in a fair amount of fun and chaos that ensures a whirlwind of a ride. This controlled mayhem couldn’t have been done without the razor sharp editing that gives the movie its lilting rhythm, a conscientious pacing that promises constant entertainment. 

The playful and comedic nature of Knives Out is astutely captured too. From mirror reflections and shots of eccentric ornaments in the estate, the movie is filled with clever framing and angles that gives it its rich detail and immersive opulent setting. The combination of the Victorian set-up and the incorporation of modern technology and real-world issues acts as a stark reminder that Knives Out is a present-day mystery. 

Arresting visuals aside, Knives Out is not afraid to make fun of the very detective canon it is playing in. With references made to the Sherlock-Watson duo and other detective literature, the movie lightly pokes fun at certain mystery tropes, adding to the movie’s farcical appeal. Private Investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) sitting surreptitiously (but also not really) in a corner during an interrogation? Called out in a second. Enigma? Poof! Gone up in smoke.  

And then we have the cast. What a cast! Whether we’re talking about Jamie Lee Curtis in her refined role as the eldest daughter Linda or Jaeden Martell as the reticent grandson who’s constantly glued to his phone, just the big names that Knives Out assembles assures a worthy performance. Yet, while the actors and actresses do a fantastic job in their individual roles, the nature of the film makes it such that they can only go as far as being stereotypical characters, like the free-spirited daughter-in-law or the belligerent son. Understandably, such labels helps the audience to remember who is who easily, but it’s a pity that their characters can only remain as superficial as the movie allows. 

Though, this does not negate the cast’s competence. With everyone in their own oddball roles, a trait that seems to permeate the ridiculously wealthy, their discordant parts somehow manage to come together in a strange harmony. The relationships between families are made clear in short lines and little actions as the whole ensemble waltzes about the house, their quarrels and tension culminating in a delightful symphony, very much like the perky orchestral music that accompanies the movie. 

For a murder-mystery movie, Knives Out is more concerned with comedic timing than it is with building suspense and tension. You’ll get a taste of that already with the ostentatious setting and over the top characters. The movie keeps you guessing, definitely, but not in a way that it hurts your brain. Sit back and enjoy the reverie, Knives Out coos, as things get laid out neatly before you. 

Nevertheless, that means Knives Out is a light-hearted and mindless movie that is out to make you laugh. While a little draggy at parts (or maybe just because anxious me couldn’t wait to know the ending), the movie is a commendable take on the well worn but still much cherished detective tale. Pay careful attention to every line and detail, and you will be greatly rewarded upon the final reveal. As all famous detectives announce, “The game is afoot!” 

Brought in by Encore Films, Knives Out will open in Golden Village cinemas from 27 November 2019 onwards. In the meantime, indulge in the trailer first:

Always floating around, indulging in stories of all kinds. Please don't send me hate mail. I have low self-esteem.
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