It’s good to see a contemporary film that embraces the old mystery movie tropes, while bending them ever-so-slightly. And one that features a bevy of A-list actors.
Knives Out has many of the standard whodunit elements: all the characters gather at a big old house in the middle of nowhere. It’s a (dysfunctional) family gathering and they’ve come to celebrate the patriarch, Harlan Thrombey’s, 85th birthday. (Wait! Is that a Harold and Maude reference?) Harlan rather puts a damper on things when he decides to cut them all from his will.
Because Harlan is incredibly wealthy. Just like everyone who publishes crime fiction.
And did I fail to mention that the movie starts with the housekeeper Fran discovering Harlan dead, with his throat cut? Having gotten your attention with this fairly standard plot device, the story then leaps ahead to a week later, when the police hold everyone at the party for questioning. The various interrogations cleverly jump about in time, revealing flashbacks to things not being revealed by the witnesses and contradicted by what they say. Again, great use of nonlinear narrative.
It reminded me of the movies based on Agatha Christie books and such, and yet with a modern twist on the old formula. (Or has it been so long since I last watched one, I’ve just forgotten?)
For one thing, Daniel Craig plays a private investigator hired by persons unknown to find out who
whacked Big Daddy murdered Harlan. Craig plays him with an accent straight out of the heart of Dixie , with an occasional subtle detour toward the British Isles.
The family, naturally, all have reasons to
kill Daddy get rid of the Old Man. And take great pains to hide as many of them as possible, while secretly lusting over their presumed windfall. (This would be before the “reading of the will,” which I was happy as a retired attorney to see was clearly specified as an unnecessary ceremony , usually confined to the plots of movies this sort.) So you can imagine their dumbfounded shock surprise to discover it’s all going to one particular person—Harlan’s nurse, Marta.
Now, Marta brings another modern aspect into this film. One that nudges the film ever-so-slightly into political territory. A matter of immigration status.
She also has a most unusual condition. Marta is incapable of lying. Actually, she can lie, but it makes her vomit. Which makes her a pretty lousy liar.
Interestingly, she’s played by Ana de Armas, a relative newbie compared with so many of the other actors. Thus expressing through clever casting not only her separate (presumably lesser) status with respect to the
pack of vultures hovering over their expected wealth family, but increased conflict with them along with an isolation and vulnerability the others can’t appreciate.
If you enjoy a good whodunit with an almost endless series of twists, red herrings, and all the other trimmings, this movie will not disappoint.
Hint: Just keep your eye on the Old Lady! 🙂
And don’t click on the above image, unless you don’t mind spoilers!
You can also buy it from Apple! 🙂
Or watch it on Apple TV!
Or you can overcome any anxiety you have about the coronavirus, go to the
damn theatre, and see it on the great big screen, like we did! 🙂 That was, of course, before all the theaters in my state were closed, because of said virus!
Here’s the kind of thing you miss if you don’t go out! 😦