Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi), who also directs, was nominated for an Oscar and a BAFTA for his (highly) original screenplay and the film was nominated in the Golden Globes for Best Film, Actress and Actor. Rian Johnson loves Agatha Christie and wanted to make a film the stayed close to her conventions, which he achieves brilliantly. This is a hugely entertaining film. When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.
Johnson assembles a dream cast: Craig, Plummer, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis and the especially sublime Ana de Armas in a star-making turn. All uniformly excellent and convincing in their roles, the actors seemed to be relishing the opportunity to portray such unsympathetic characters with ulterior motives, aided by fantastic dialogue that manages to package the story comedically but with the right dose that takes the story across its different twists and turns while not abandoning the right amount of characterization that keeps the whole thing from turning into a gimmick.
The film’s production design by David Crank deserves special praise. Crank creates a mansion where every room and every corner hide secrets and buries animosities, while other technical credits, particularly the cinematography, costume design and editing, all contribute to making a perfectly enjoyable adult-oriented mid-budget film, the kind of film that studios in Hollywood do not dare make anymore. In going back to the old fashioned, yet modern at heart, type of films in which A-listers gather to tell a well-crafted story that never underestimates its audience. Knives Out isn’t a groundbreaking work but it doesn’t need to be. By not taking itself too seriously and focusing on the fun and intrigue, it is both delightful and smart. Never pretentious nor attempting to be anything more than genuinely entertaining fare, it keeps audiences engaged throughout. A potential box office winner.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall