December 4, 2019 – Seldom have I seen a murder mystery this well written, directed and acted. “Knives Out” has it all, a big, dysfunctional family all of whom have motives for killing the wealthy family patriarch, Harlan Thrombey (played by Christopher Plummer of “All the Money in the World”) a big, creepy house with a secret door, a big knife collection, witty dialog and dark humor.
Local police assume that Harlan, a murder mystery author and publisher, has committed suicide by cutting his own throat after his 85th birthday party, attended by family and friends. However, famed consulting detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig of the recent James Bond movies) thinks this case is not that simple. He suspects foul play. Blanc has been invited to investigate Harlan's death by an anonymous person who sent him an envelope stuffed with cash.
Police question all those a the party, and hear a lot of lies. They all claim to be self-made, rich and part of one big, happy family. Blanc sees though the lies and teases out the fact that Harlan had informed his family that he planned to cut off the flow of money to them on the very night of his death. Harlan had also changed his will, causing more consternation and anger. Blanc soon has them all fighting like cats and dogs, and spilling their secrets to him.
A careful examination of the grounds reveal that there was an intruder in the house on the night of Harlan's death, and it could have been an outsider. The supposed suicide turns into a murder investigation. A fire bomb and a drug-induced murder ratchet up the tension in the case.
Blanc appoints Harlan's nurse, Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas of “Blade Runner 2049”) to be his assistant in the investigation, sometimes referring to her as “Watson.” Since Marta is also a suspect in the murder, this leads to some interesting conflicts of interest on her part. Marta has the unusual psychological problem of vomiting whenever she tells a lie, sort of a built-in lie detector.
Among the other suspects in the case are Harlan's spoiled playboy grandson, Hugh Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans of “Captain America”) Harlan's eldest daughter, Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis of “Halloween”), Harlan's youngest son, Walter Thrombey (Michael Shannon of “Premium Rush”) and his wife, Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette of “Heredity”). All of them are living on handouts from Harlan, handouts which were due to suddenly end.
Daniel Craig is excellent as the shrewd detective with the southern accent, Ana de Armas is great as the murder suspect who is in this case way over her head, and the actors playing the members of this dysfunctional family are all wonderfully convincing as self-centered, envious, delusional people.
This is a genre film, with lots of nods to other films of its kind. The Uber detective, Blanc, is squarely in the tradition of movie detectives such as Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. Blanc is a keen observer of evidence and people. He misses no detail and relentlessly pursues the truth. This is one of the year's best films. It rates an A.
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