Friday, 8 November 2019

Knives Out ★★★★☆

I feel bad for Rian Johnson. Despite a resumé that includes cult classics such as Brick and Looper, and three of the finest episodes of Breaking Bad (including ‘Ozymandias’, arguably the finest hour of television ever filmed), the guy is almost universally hated for his work on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Now, I’m not particularly well-versed on the Star Wars universe – I haven’t even seen The Last Jedi – but I have nothing but sympathy for people who work on cinematic universes with such aggressive fanbases. It seems like you can’t win. So, when his latest film premiered at the London Film Festival in October, CeX was first in line to see it and support the guy.

Written and directed by Johnson, the film is described as a ‘modern take’ on the murder mystery genre. A darkly hilarious and violent romp that would have Agatha Christie cackling with delight, Knives Out follows a detective as he travels to a lush estate to interview the quirky relatives of a patriarch who died during his 85th birthday celebration. Suspecting foul play, nobody in the dysfunctional family is safe from his enquiries. What follows is a twisty and turny two hours filled with mystery, backstabbings and some of the funniest dialogue of the year.

With an ensemble cast to die for (Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson and many more), Knives Out is utterly rammed with acting clout. But with any ensemble film comes the age-old issue of too many characters, not enough time. While some characters are underdeveloped during the film’s 130-minute runtime, it isn’t enough to detract from the film’s overall scope and quality. Ingeniously plotted in a hilarious and quickfire screenplay from Johnson, the film’s blackly hysterical dialogue and shocking twists and turns make for a viewing experience that is nothing short of a revelation. 

Rian Johnson proves himself to be an absolute master with Knives Out, which takes the murder-mystery tropes of old and flips them on their head. The film is unpredictable and irreverent as a result, injecting some much-needed originality into a rather tired genre. I don’t remember the last whodunit I saw before this, because they typically don’t leave a lasting impression. They’re just a quick hit of mystery and thrills. Knives Out, however, could just become a cult classic. It’ll almost certainly make an appearance on many ‘Best of 2019’ lists. This is an endlessly entertaining, thrilling, hilarious and twisted romp.

Knives Out’s marketing carried the tagline ‘A Rian Johnson Whodunit’ and I remember being perplexed by this choice – his name isn’t exactly a selling point these days, and he certainly doesn’t have an identity in the genre that would have the same impact as – for example – “An Agatha Christie Whodunit”. But having seen the film, the film is absolutely his vision through and through. A Rian Johnson whodunit it is, and hopefully not the last. 

Sam Love

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