Knives Out review: A classic whodunnit with a twist

The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson delivers his best film yet with his take on the murder mystery genre

Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc in Kinves Out (Lionsgate)
5.0 out of 5 star rating

Without wishing to turn you away from my own review, it’s probably best that you go into Knives Out knowing as little as possible about what’s about to unfold.

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Sure, there’s no harm in knowing the basic story – an eccentric detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is called to the house of a recently-deceased murder mystery novelist when someone suspects a member of his grasping family killed him – or its background, coming from the mind of The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson.

It’s also no spoiler to note that the films has an impressive cast, including (but not limited to) Marvel star Chris Evans as an arrogant playboy, Toni Colette as a Gwyneth Paltrow-esque influencer, Jamie Lee Curtis as a hard-nosed property magnate and Michael Shannon as an underfoot literary publisher.

But as for the rest, well, try to keep an open mind and not read too much about what’s coming in this brilliantly timely, funny and well-constructed script from Johnson. Not just because, in classic whodunnit fashion, there’s a twist or two, but also because this film is actually quite different – and more thoughtful – than you might expect it to be.

Yes, it’s an entertaining Agatha Christie-esque mystery as to who actually killed Walter Thrombey – at least for a bit – but it’s also a surprisingly effective exploration of the poisonous nature of inherited wealth, as well as the subtle snobbery of even the most liberal-seeming people.

Focused through the eyes of central character Marta (the late Walter’s nurse, as played by Ana de Armas) the Thrombeys aren’t quite monstrous at first, but as the net closes in on the family and the nature of Walt’s death becomes clear they shed their veneers of respectability, desperately trying to intimidate and implicate one another and stay on top.

Marta, meanwhile, is pathologically honest and honourable – to the point that she vomits whenever she lies, which becomes a useful story point – and soon gets recruited by detective Blanc to accompany him as he stalks the halls of the Thrombey mansion.

Despite his prominence in the trailer and star power, Craig definitely plays second fiddle in the movie to the wide-eyed de Armas, even as his mannered, Southern gentleman act makes for an entertaining spin on a Poirot-alike sleuth. Happily, de Armas is more than up to the task, anchoring the movie in a role that could have been thanklessly bland but instead shines from her first appearance.

By the end of the film the full arc of Johnson’s plan becomes clear and events are cast in a very different light – and it’s here that I’ll struggle to say more without ruining the experience. You’ll thank me when you watch it, I swear.

Just know that Knives Out is a brilliantly political, funny and well-plotted story that pays homage to the whodunnit genre without just pastiching it, and is probably Johnson’s best film yet. To take a stab in the dark, if you’ve read this far it’s something you won’t want to miss.

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Knives Out is in cinemas now