Knives Out ★★★★

Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” — a crackling, devious, and hugely satisfying old-school whodunnit with a modern twist — wants you to know that it takes place in the world of today. In fact, it wants you to know that it wants you to know. Hardly a minute goes by without some reference to the here and now of it all. When legendary crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead the morning after his 85th birthday, it’s as if the past dies with him and the present comes rushing in to replace it, eager to claim the inheritance to which it always felt entitled.

Walt (Michael Shannon), who runs his late father’s publishing house, can be heard yammering on about selling all the movie rights to Netflix; technically that moment takes place in one of the film’s many seamless flashbacks, but it’s not as if Harlan’s kids were ever shy about their intentions. When famed detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) shows up to sleuth out the killer, an awed member of the Thrombey clan exclaims “I read a tweet about a New Yorker article about you.” In a very funny movie where even the most throwaway jokes are later exhumed with vital importance, it’s no surprise that the profile in question eventually resurfaces as one of the script’s innumerable plot points. References to everything from Juuling to “Baby Driver” are strewn around the rest of the story; not since “Hamilton” has a juicy slice of theatrical entertainment been so openly determined to bridge the gap between old history and new language.

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