The new whodunnit film Knives Out, Rian Johnson's first post-Star Wars movie, is receiving great reviews. Written and directed by Johnson, Knives Out is a murder mystery full of star cast members, lighthearted humor and nods to the great murder mystery authors Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
The plot of Knives Out revolves around the mysterious murder of crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) who was found dead at his home on his 85th birthday. A mysterious detective named Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is commissioned to investigate the murder. Blanc must question Thrombey’s dysfunctional family and house staff, determining fact from fiction to uncover the truth behind the novelist’s unfortunate death.
The early reactions to Knives Out have been extremely positive. Knives Out currently holds a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes among critics. This score is 20% higher than Johnson’s debut mystery film Brick, which was released in 2006 and received a critic score of 76%. Brick was Johnsons first foray into the murder mystery genre, and in Knives Out he continues that love affair. Of course, Johnson's previous movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, was also a hit with critics, but proved divisive among Star Wars fans. Knives Out, however, doesn't seem to have any such issues, with the film also holding a 96% audience score at the time of writing. Johnson has long been a favorite with critics, so here's what they're praising about Knives Out.
It’s a film that works because of Johnson’s palpable love for the genre, but never becomes too meta or referential. A lot of talented directors have returned to genre movies after making a fortune and brought too much self-awareness with them, but that’s not the case here.
“Knives Out” recalls a time when audiences could still be surprised by such mysteries, before the genre devolved into a corny parody of itself. Johnson keeps us guessing, which is good, but the thing that makes this a better mousetrap than most isn’t the complexity, but the fact he’s managed to rig it without the usual cheese.
As Johnson did to the film noir with his debut, Brick, Knives Out tears apart the genre tropes of the whodunnit and gives them a 21st century spruce up. Perhaps in acknowledgement of the target painted on his back after helming the most divisive Star Wars movie ever, he cooks up an indelible crowd-pleaser with intricate plotting that never attempts to alienate its audience.
A genre savant, Johnson understands that one of the pleasures of mystery stories is how they turn viewers into detectives, eager amateur sleuths who also sift through the clues, false and not.
[Johnson] brilliantly reinvented crime noir with a high-school bent in his 2006 directorial debut "Brick," and "Knives Out" marries the problem-solving of Sherlock and Columbo with the nuttiness of "Clue."
This, in other words, is one of those mysteries so clever and fiendishly well-engineered that you eventually have no choice but to stop trying to get ahead of it, to simply enjoy the way it plants and payoffs
It doesn't take a detective to work out why the Knives Out reviews are so positive. Most of the praise comes from Johnson's new take on the whodunnit genre, which sees the writer/director spin a genuinely enticing, difficult-to-solve mystery that pays homage to what's come before, but also does exciting, new things as well. There's also praise for the all-star cast, and critics seem to agree that Knives Out is a lot of fun for audiences, especially amateur sleuths. However, Knives Out is not without its flaws. Here are opinions from some critics on why the film falls just short of perfect.
It’s not the empty, slavish homage it could have been as Johnson knows that simply regurgitating the rules with a wink wouldn’t be enough. There’s genuinely thrilling ingenuity here and while some of his attempts to give the film a contemporary, Trump’s America spin are a little too clunky, other similar touches work so well that you’re willing to forget them.
Indeed the only gags that fall flat are those that endeavor to tackle politics or inject social commentary. There’s definitely a message attached to Knives Out, and there’s a reason Marta plays such a prominent role. But then there are direct references to snowflakes, the alt-right, and social justice warriors that lack subtlety, feel shoe-horned in, and would be better off left on the cutting room floor.
The issue for some seems to be the film’s political commentary. At points it can be too obvious and feels like it is being forced. This can cause the viewer to become distracted from the main plot of the film. Additionally, with the political commentary being related to current events, it takes away from the timeless feel the film could have created. While some viewers may enjoy the political commentary, it is seemingly one of the weaker aspects within the film. Despite this, many Knives Out reviews suggest it is one of the best films of the year.
So far audiences and critics seem to agree on Knives Out, and while there's a chance that could change now the movie has a wide release, the consensus is that this is a great time at the cinema, and the best murder mystery movie in years. Let us know what you think of Knives Out down in the comments.