With the release of Knives Out at the Toronto Film Festival in the Autumn of 2019, writer and director Rian Johnson has further cemented his position as a master filmmaker. Knives Out, an original, sumptuous murder mystery, has all the ingredients to become a modern-day classic.
Knives Out centres around wealthy novelist Harlan Thrombey, played wonderfully by Christopher Plummer, who calls his family together at his grand Massachusetts home to celebrate his 85th birthday.
During the evening it becomes clear that his relations with his family are somewhat strained and the next morning he’s found dead.
The police believe it to be suicide, but an anonymous person has engaged world famous detective, Benoit Blanc, played impeccably by Daniel Craig, to investigate. Ana de Armas is excellent as Marta Cabrera, Harlan’s nurse. While Jamie Lee Curtis plays Linda Drysdale, Harlan’s eldest daughter and heads the family’s cast of curious characters, which include Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Toni Collette as Harlan’s daughter-in-law, LaKeith Stanfield who plays Detective Lieutenant Elliott from the local police, and even Frank Oz turns up as Alan Stevens, Harlan’s lawyer.
Rian Johnson achieved international fame for his breakout film Brick, released in 2005. He has not exactly been prolific as a filmmaker since, having released just four films, all written and directed by Rian. But what a catalogue of films they are, with The Brothers Bloom (2008), Looper (2012), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) and most recently Knives Out.
Rian received criticism from some quarters for his contribution to the Star Wars franchise. Despite this, the film still attracted huge audiences worldwide, earning some $1.3 billion at the box office, dwarfing its $300 million budget.
With Knives Out Rian has clearly demonstrated his mastery of the filmmaking art. Any doubters should have nothing to argue with, as the murder mystery whodunnit, compared by some to the very best of Agatha Christie, brought the genre right bang up to date with a film that kept you guessing on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
Beautifully shot, with excellent cinematography from Steve Yedlin, the film looks sumptuous and enticing. Steve has collaborated with Rian on all of his films to date, it’s a working partnership that goes back a long way and clearly one that works wonderfully well.
Rian does a lot for film fans and students of filmmaking too. He has put copies of his previous film scripts up on his website for anyone to download and read, with the notable exception of Star Wars.
Knives Out has rightly attracted a lot of praise from critics and no end of award nominations from around the world, including an Oscar nomination for Rian himself for best original screenplay.
Now out on DVD and digital download, it should make a welcome addition to anyone’s film collection.
It has been a long time in the making. He first came up with the concept for the film shortly after making Brick in 2005. He cites a long line of classic whodunnit’s as inspiration, yet the film is not like any other, it brings a fresh approach to an old genre, creating new life for a style of filmmaking that certainly has a lot more to offer. Could this be the start of a new franchise outing for Daniel Craig? Only time will tell. Either way, it’s another landmark on Rian Johnsons’ gently expanding list of cinematic achievements.