TIFF 2019: Knives Out
There are only flashes of excitement to be had in this star-studded whodunit featuring Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon and Chris Evans
A crime caper with an allegory for modern America at its core, Knives Out shows all the signs of being a fast and flashy crowd-pleaser but its slow-burn leaves it feeling a little tame. The film has all the workings of a game of Cluedo, but despite a great potential for eccentricity, some areas of Rian Johnson's latest feel lacklustre and unexplored.
Daniel Craig, having a great time here with a Frank Underwood-esque Southern drawl, is Benoit Blanc – a hammy detective called to the Thrombey mansion after the suspicious death of patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). With his throat slit, seemingly by his own hand, the question of Harlan’s will and the ongoing criminal investigation draws his heirs together, as well as Harlan’s nurse Marta (Ana de Armas), to play out the murder mystery.
The film’s title promises more of a romp than the film actually delivers, despite flashes of fun and the inevitable fulfillment of knowing exactly who done it. And while Craig gets to thrive in a showy role, the other cast members – including the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon and Chris Evans – have far less room to take things up a notch. It is a playful film with some nicely placed tricks and jokes that land well, but it craves something sharper, wilder and louder to truly liven up the action.
There is still a laugh to be had here though. Knives Out's twisting plot and all-star cast deliver worthwhile entertainment, and the prioritisation of politics in the narrative feels refreshing and pertinent. The attention on Marta and the protection she craves for her undocumented family, plus Trump-era references from various members of the Thrombey family, add an extra layer to the film that ultimately proves its most satisfying by the finale.
Knives Out had its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and is released in the UK on 29 Nov by Lionsgate