Knives Out ★★★★½

Why do I love whodunnits?

Oh, let me count the ways…

1. I love them because of Agatha Christie. She created Hercule Poirot & Miss Marple, and the rest is history.

2. I love them because of my mother, who would watch re-runs of Murder She Wrote every Sunday afternoon when I was a child, which subconsciously trickled down to my own viewing habits years later. I’m so thankful for her. She is my Jessica Fletcher; intuitive, warm and lovely to be around.

3. I love that they take my favourite storytelling conceit growing up—the “who’s behind this?” identity mystery of Scooby-Doo—and dials it up to eleven, with some blood to boot.

4. I love that the genre inherently requires confidence in writing.

5. I love the attention to detail and the seeds that are planted throughout the screenplay. Some are just simple throwaway lines that bring no attention to themselves, yet are retrospectively quintessential to the overall mystery and that final glorious deduction that always garners the phrase “but you have no proof!”. It makes repeated viewings exhilarating.

6. I love how they incorporate the ensemble, and the wickedly talented cast you can always expect going in. Whether it be a family of pretentious snobs in a lush archaic mansion, a group of old friends vacationing by the marina on a blistering summer’s day, or a crop of unconnected individuals invited to dinner by someone they seemingly don’t know — they’re always memorable and often morally bankrupt, ricocheting off each other through their conniving attributes and horrid secrets. Their words are the sharpest weapons in the room.

7. I love the eccentric detective at the center of it all. So much.

8. I love the trap all whodunnits knowingly fall into, regardless of quality: the emphasis on the final reveal. However, it’s all about how you succeed that moment—the sudden flash of lightning which follows the storm—that dictates everything.

9. I love that in 2019, Rian Johnson made a whodunnit that reminded me why I love whodunnits, while simultaneously showing me something new. It sticks the landing; the final shot is cinematic ecstasy. Nathan Johnson’s score is wonderfully sinister; his strings in the opening set the scene for the rest of the film. The cast is exceptional; Ana De Armas is operating on another level entirely. Knives Out is cunningly untraditional and glaringly modern. Just like how The Last of Sheila implemented the genre’s narrative framework to comment on showbiz and its uncomfortably slimy nature, Johnson looked at the type of people in our world today and placed them in this classical genre of deceit and hate.

The scariest part — and the element that ties together the moments of downright hilarity with the film's otherwise affecting beats — is that the Thrombey’s truly belong in this world.

You never doubt it for a second.


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