“Knives Out” is a murder mystery with a wonderful cast, including Christopher Plummer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, and Chris Evans. They’re just some of the family members who get together in the patriarch’s big, creaky Victorian house, where one of them doesn’t survive the night.
The next day, a cop (LaKeith Stanfield) shows up to investigate, along with a strange private eye with a Louisiana drawl (Daniel Craig). It’s not the first time Craig has affected a southern patois — he pulled one off memorably in “Logan Lucky” a couple of years ago (read my review here) — and while it takes a minute or two to hear that dialect coming out of his mouth, you’ll get used to it pretty quickly.
Movies like this depend heavily on a cleverly written and executed plot, and “Knives Out” certainly has one, thanks to writer/director Rian Johnson, who is best known for a film from a very different genre, “Star Wars: Episode 8 — The Last Jedi.” But before that, he worked on three of the most well-respected episodes of “Breaking Bad” (“Fly,” “Fifty One,” and “Ozymandias”), where I’m guessing he learned a lot about intricate plotting from showrunner Vince Gilligan and the writing team.
Johnson was also obviously inspired by — and paying tribute to — Agatha Christie’s classic whodunits, in which the detective usually gathers all the possible suspects together in the parlor for the final reveal. Speaking of Christie, I can’t even remember the last whodunit with an all-star cast other than Kenneth Branagh’s 2017 remake of her “Murder On The Orient Express,” which I didn’t enjoy all that much (my review is here).
You’ll notice that, in this review, I haven’t given away any of the plot points of “Knives Out” or even told you which character gets killed to start the action, but I will say that you don’t have to pay attention to every detail to enjoy the chemistry and comedy. In the end, Johnson delivers a nimble story with no loose ends — and even a reference to 1985’s “Clue,” to which this movie will no doubt be compared (although “Knives Out” only has one ending, not the three that “Clue” was released with).
My wife, who reads multiple mystery novels each week and usually figures them out long before the last page, wasn’t able to guess who did it this time. But instead of being frustrated, she enjoyed the hell out of “Knives Out.” So did I, even though I can never root out which character was responsible in any mystery.
In a movie season with far too few titles that can put a smile on your face, “Knives Out” stands out as a perfect getaway for teens and adults ready for a break from their families during Thanksgiving weekend — and, hopefully, for a long time to come.
I give “Knives Out” an 8.5 out of 10.