I finally had the opportunity to see Knives Out, so I thought I’d leave a review even though I’m extremely late to the party on this one. Knives Out is Rian Johnson’s first movie following the chaotic debacle surrounding the reception of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’s a whodunnit mystery that, from that trailer, seemed extremely reminiscent of the original Clue movie that they used to play all the time on Comedy Central in the middle of the night. Watching it, it was exactly that. An updated entry into this anachronistic, but still very interesting genre.
A lot of people are going to associate this movie with their feelings about The Last Jedi, due to the charged nature of its association with Rian Johnson, but my Last Jedi feelings aside, I was a fan of Rian Johnson before The Last Jedi. I shouldn’t say “fan”. I enjoyed Brick quite a bit, Rian Johnson’s first outing starring Joseph Gordon Levitt. It reminded me of the older Chris Nolan films. I very much liked Looper, Rian Johnson’s second outing… also starring Joseph Gordon Levitt. Come to think of it, every Rian Johnson movie I’ve seen, save for The Last Jedi, was a bit of a detective-style mystery. So, I suppose to me, The Last Jedi is the thing that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the Rian Johnson filmography. He probably should have just kept going with his own uniquely styled auteur mystery thrillers.
In fact, I think the few places where this Knives Out loses from review points are the places where Rian Johnson seems to be addressing the meta-narrative of The Last Jedi. I wish it had been a complete separation, but modern politics, which will not age well with this movie, are jammed into this movie. Terminology like “alt-right” and political discussions very specific to 2019 political discourse do a disservice to the film; not only because they add to the politically charged narrative of Rian Johnson as a director, but moreso because they feel so out of place and hamfisted in the movie. Like Johnson had a finished draft and went back to it and was like “I really want to cram like 2-3 totally unnecessary discussions about 2019 partisan politics because I can’t stop thinking about it even though they add absolutely nothing to this movie.”
Aside from that, the plot of the movie really grabbed me, and the characters, with one exception, were tremendously well-portrayed and acted. Each one was a semi-parody of the out-of-touch rich person stereotypes most people are familiar with, played acted with a perfect lack of self-awareness. The characters felt believable and true to life. I felt like we’ve all met these archetypal characters and, though they can be parodied and mocked, they mostly do it to themselves, by being a real-life self-parody in oblivious earnestness.
The only exception, I felt, was Ransom, played by Chris Evans. While each of the other characters were portrayed by skilled character actors who disappeared into their characters, Ransom was played by leading man Chris Evans, who basically played the same Chris Evans-arrogant douche character as he did in Scott Pilgrim and almost every other movie he’s starred in that wasn’t made by Marvel. There was nothing wrong with this. It wasn’t a bad performance. It’s just that, juxtaposed with the other performances in the movie that were noticeably so good, especially Daniel Craig’s detective, it didn’t compare well. Since this is a review of Knives Out, I feel like I have to mention it.
Ana de Armas also didn’t quite disappear into her character, though her character to begin with was sort of the audience-insert straight man (just in case you don’t know: normal where everyone else is zany) character. Also, sort of a double-edged sword here, Ana de Armas is so unbelievably attractive it’s hard to find her believable as a nurse, even with costuming trying to make her more homely. But, ah, it mostly works for the movie. Like, can you imagine hiring a home nurse and someone who looks like 90s era Salma Hayek but hotter shows up?
As for the mystery itself, which was the backbone of the movie, it was intriguing. It was well done. It pulls a bit of a switcheroo on you by telling the audience exactly whodunnit extremely early in the film, and as a result it kind of keeps you on your toes because you have to expect that the story you’re given can’t quite be right. Like, surely the movie couldn’t have given it all away at the start for no reason, right? So it actually keeps you invested even more because you want to find out what was unreliable about this initial story.
Overall, I think this is a strong course correction for Rian Johnson. I think it’s getting him back on track. My piece of advice for him, maybe, would be to get over what happened with The Last Jedi, because it didn’t really fit into your filmography to begin with, and the bitterness seeps into this movie in an unpleasant way.
That does it for the Knives Out review. Be sure to check the Movies & TV section for other movie/tv reviews and analyses.