Knives Out (2019)

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It’s fair to say that we are coming up to the time of the year where a trip to the cinema might need to be one that can be enjoyed by the entire family. If you weren’t a fan of Star Wars and didn’t want to experience the anticipated weirdness of Cats this holiday season, then Rian Johnson’s Knives Out looked like it might have the potential to be the best bet for some good old fashioned family fun. After all, who doesn’t like a twisty whodunit?

Well, it turns out to some degree, me! And I mean that in the sense that whilst there is absolutely nothing technically wrong with Knives Out, there is just something about it that doesn’t grab me. The film is a huge ensemble piece that take a slightly different approach to the traditional whodunit, with maverick private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) anonymously hired to investigate the apparent suicide of patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a millionaire author whose death after his 85th birthday party results in every member of his member being present, and therefore being a suspect.

It’s hard to talk about Knives Out without giving away tiny details that lead to the bigger unwinding plot, but suffice to say, it’s certainly a fun and twisting ride through various motives and alibis, before settling on a direction that is very different and very interesting compared to the norms of the genre. The odd separation I have with the film for some reason, though, is in the way that whilst I can see and recognise that everything happening is well executed and innovative in its own way, I simply just wasn’t feeling it. It’s not too often that I find myself swimming against the tide in terms of critical opinion, but that seems to be the case here.

I’ve come to think that perhaps the whodunit setup, now matter how satirical or refreshing, just isn’t for me. 2017’s Murder On The Orient Express was one of my most negative film experiences of that year, so maybe I’m just not made to fully enjoy these types of movies, neither at their most traditional nor their most modern.

From a personal point of view, it feels like the film offers you the promise of a truly amazing ensemble cast, and then picks arguably the least interesting ones to build the core story around. Of course, that opinion will vary for every individual viewer, but that’s certainly how I felt.

Knives Out is clever enough, it’s mostly funny enough and it’s inventive enough to provide a good time at the cinema, I just can’t say much else other than its feels like a classic case of watching a film, understanding that it is good, but simply not having as a good a time with it as everyone else is seeming to.

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I have a suspicion that a lot of my underwhelmed feelings about Knives Out stem from certain performances and certain decisions made relating to cast. As detective Benoit Blanc, Daniel Craig is a sort of satirical reaction to all of the smooth, calm and collected crime solvers in the genre. With an accent like Foghorn Leghorn and an ability to seemingly stumble into the right answers the wrong ways, Craig’s performance is one that you are either going to love or hate, unfortunately for me it landed more on the latter end of the spectrum.

The film boasts one of the best ensemble casts you will see this year, but unfortunately it underuses some of its best assets. The likes of Jamie Lee Curtis and Toni Collette are very much in the background, with the larger parts awarded to Ana de Armas, Chris Evans and the aforementioned Daniel Craig. Don’t get me wrong, Evans in particular is great in his role, but I would certainly rather have seen Curtis and Collette front and centre.

Overall, the more I’m writing the more it’s becoming clear to me that one’s enjoyment of Knives Out is going to be purely a case of personal opinions. At its core, the film is a cleverly written mystery comedy, certainly a picture that can’t be described by anyone as bad because it simply isn’t. However, my seemingly negative response to the whodunit genre combined with a frustration towards both Daniel Craig’s borderline annoying lead performance and the suspect misuse of a potentially amazing cast has left me just not loving Knives Out as much as the rest of the film loving community appears to. I fear this entire review hasn’t made much sense, but hey ho, it’s nearly Christmas so let’s all just get drunk and have a nap shall we!?

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