Knives Out

Knives Out ★★★★

I observe the facts without biases of the head or heart.

God, you're not much of a detective are you?

Well, to be fair, you make a pretty lousy murderer. Perhaps we deserve each other.

Murder mystery conventions dictate that the audience make assumptions. Which culprit appears the shiftiest? Which the cleverest? Which the most honest? Racial and economic prejudices rely on the same kind of assumptive logic; that someone can be judged by their outward appearances. (My director man crush) Rian Johnson finds the overlap between the two, orchestrating a biting commentary on economic disparity and prejudice within a classically twisty murder mystery.

Of course, a Rian Johnson film would not be complete without genre subversion. About a third of the way into the film, he upends expectations about the murder at the heart of the mystery, only to bring everything back around to a classic "deductive drawing room revelation" by the end. Along the way, though, what Johnson finds pleasure in is casting actors against type and allowing them to luxuriate in playing the moments where the character's shallow facade falls away. There are even times where we doubt our own assumptions about certain characters, instances of Johnson using genre conventions to test our own prejudices.

Ever since hearing about Knives Out, the appeal of Johnson handling one of my favorite genres with a stellar cast (that includes the best James Bond!) seemed like a prospect too good to fail. That's one assumption that proved entirely true.

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