People have been writing murder mysteries for years. One of the most common murder mystery tropes is to limit the possible suspects to a small group of people in a small, enclosed location. It happened with “Clue,” with “Murder on the Orient Express” and now it’s happening again, with Rian Johnson’s (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) “Knives Out.” Only this time, the pool of suspects is made even more interesting because it’s limited to the victim’s money-hungry family.
In the film, Harlon Thrombey (Christopher Plummer, “Sound of Music”) is the family patriarch found dead, presumably killed by one of his many shady and suspicious family members, most of whom stand to gain from his death. There’s his daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis, “Halloween”), who wants her father’s mansion, his son-in-law Richard (Don Johnson, “Django Unchained”), who’s having an affair, Joni (Toni Colette, “Little Miss Sunshine”), his widowed daughter-in-law who tries to leech off of him and his college-aged granddaughter Meg (Katherine Langford, “13 Reasons Why”), to name a few. All stereotypical suspects for a somewhat stereotypical mystery idea. Daniel Craig (“Casino Royale”) plays Benoit Blanc, the odd, Southern-accented detective trying to find the killer.
The idea behind “Knives Out” was foolproof — from the trailers and pictures, it seems that the whole film is supposed to be about finding out who killed Harlon Thrombey. But the problem is that what the movie claims to be is different from what it actually is. It’s marketed as a “whodunnit,” but it isn’t quite that.
Frankly, the best parts of the movie were three of the most important characters in it: Harlon Thrombey, Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans, “Captain America: The First Avenger”) and Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas, “Blade Runner 2049”). Plummer captures the role of quirky, slightly senile billionaire incredibly well. There wasn’t a scene with him where I doubted his portrayal of the character. He clearly cared about his family and felt genuine compassion towards his nurse, Marta. Chris Evans, despite only really appearing halfway through the film, was one of my favorite performances. In an incredibly un-Captain America-like role, he plays the initially jerky, spoiled grandson of Thrombey. He provides sorely needed comic relief and quickly becomes a fun, favorite character. De Armas, in a dramatic opposite to Evans, plays a genuinely compassionate and doting nurse to Thrombey. The movie primarily follows her in her attempt to help Blanc discover the truth behind Thrombey’s death.
I enjoyed watching this film, but I wouldn’t say it was what I expected by any means. I expected a traditional, enclosed murder mystery with some unexpected twist. Instead, I got an untraditional half-mystery with an unconventional “twist” that I somehow both wasn’t expecting and saw coming a mile away. It was still fun, just not the kind of fun I thought I’d be getting. “Knives Out” isn’t what it claims to be, so don’t be disappointed when it’s different from what you expected.