‘Knives Out’ is an engaging, ‘Clue-like’ murder-mystery tale

Courtesy of Lionsgate.

“Knives Out” is directed and written by “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson, who wanted to pay tribute to the “parlor room murder mysteries.” Inspired by Agatha Christie’s stories, Johnson creates an elitist and pretentious world in which two detectives (Daniel Craig and LaKieth Stanfield) attempt to solve this “whodunnit” murder mystery.

The plot surrounds the sudden death of a family’s elderly patriarch, the crime writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), on his 85th birthday. The death is initially ruled as a suicide, but as the detectives dig deeper into interrogations with the family members, evidence suggests something far more sinister. 

There are eight suspects in total, with the vast majority being the elder Thrombey’s own family members: his son Walt (Michael Shannon), Walt’s son Jacob (Jaeden Martell) and wife Donna (Riki Lindhome), his other son Ransom (Chris Evans), his eldest daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her husband Richard (Don Johnson), and his daughter-in-law (Toni Collette) and her daughter, Meg (Katherine Langford). 

While the film is offbeat and wildly entertaining, it falls flat in its lack of character development for each suspect — since there is so much talent dispersed throughout the cast, there is not enough time to focus on each individual character. While each suspect could have a plausible motive, there is barely any follow-up on their confrontations with the elder Thrombey. 

The underusage of Jamie Lee Curtis and Toni Collette should be criminal. Both of their characters are overlooked and never push the plot forward. As two accomplished women in the entertainment industry, they give compelling performances but are never given the opportunity to steal a scene. Both women seem like they are just there for comedic relief.

The production design of the set was expensive and tasteful, with the film’s brick gothic mansion essentially taking on the role of another character in the film. The wealth of the family (specifically its patriarch) was visually represented through the extravagance of the Massachusetts mansion, which the majority of the film was shot in. And just like a game of Clue, the building has a study, kitchen, and other rooms that are crucial to the night of the murder. 

“Knives Out” is definitely the most fun film of the year. While it is hardly an Oscar contender, its quick wit and plot twists keep the audience engaged and excited throughout all 130 minutes of its runtime. The film will keep you guessing whodunnit it until the final reveal. 

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