Knives Out

If you need a break from your relatives this Thanksgiving weekend and hope to find some respite at the cinema then you're in luck. Not only is Knives Out the best time you can have at the movies, it will also likely make you feel a hell of a lot better about your own dysfunctional family.

Writer/director Rian Johnson's twisted take on the classic murder mystery is a delightfully entertaining whodunnit with acerbic charm to spare. The film concerns a wealthy but eccentric aging crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) who invites his family over to his lavish estate to celebrate his 85th birthday. Among them are his daughters (Jamie Lee Curtis and Toni Collette) as well as his son (Michael Shannon), his son-in-law (Don Johnson), and his grandson (Chris Evans) just to name a few. They're an interesting bunch to say the least, prone to squabbling over drinks while comfortable and accustomed to the life of privilege that the family fortune has afforded them. Perhaps Harlan's closest relationship is the one he shares with his loyal nurse and devoted caretaker Marta (Ana de Armas) who the rest of the family is a little jealous towards. When the old man is discovered dead the next morning a private detective by the name of Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is called upon by a mysterious party to investigate a case which the police would rather deem an open and shut suicide. As it turns out, the circumstances surrounding Thrombey's death prove to be as complex as one of his murder mystery novels, and it's not long before Blanc begins to suspect anyone and everyone could be the guilty party.

As a filmmaker Rian Johnson has always excelled when taking the familiar conventions of any given genre and turning them on their head, whether that means mashing up film noir with the high school drama as in Brick or delivering the most transgressive installment in the Star Wars saga since The Empire Strikes Back with The Last Jedi. True to form, Knives Out is a film that both indulges in and subverts the murder mystery genre that writers like Agatha Christie and others made famous. By both poking fun at and celebrating so many of the conventions of the genre he's able to deliver what may well be his most purely entertaining film to date, and he's aided by a pitch perfect cast. Adopting a southern drawl, Daniel Craig exudes an easygoing charm while breathing new life into the familiar gumshoe archetype, while Chris Evans is also a blast to watch as Thrombey's spoiled brat of a grandson, albeit a very charismatic one. Perhaps the real standout, however, is Ana de Armas as Marta, the picture's soul. Where all the members of Thrombey's family seem to love the man conditionally, she shows him warmth and kindness while expecting nothing in return, which is what ultimately makes her the closest thing he has to family. Knives Out also boasts some really wonderful production design in regards to the Thrombey mansion that transforms the setting into a character itself, while Johnson is also able to work in some much welcome social commentary. It's not your typical family film by any means, but the truths about what really matters in life and what truly constitutes family that Knives Out explores ensures the film has plenty of heart to go along with its brains.