In an old-fashioned murder mystery along the lines of an Agatha Christie whodunit, “Knives Out” writer-director Rian Johnson has attempted to give the film a contemporary look via casting and tone. You may have your own early suspicion of who the villain is.

At the heart of the motivation is money and a stately old house. The owner, Harlan Thrombey, played by Christopher Plummer, dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances. Into the picture comes a private eye, Benoit Blanc, and Daniel Craig plays him to the hilt in a performance that makes one think of a southern riff on Hercule Poirot.

Assorted vipers have expectations of inheriting the house and Thrombey’s money. There are, for example, his offspring, played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Shannon. I had a hard time getting used to seeing Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, at her present age of 61. My memory of her goes back many years to when I interviewed her in California when she was vibrantly young, attractive and full of spirit. Here she morphs into a nasty piece of work as she gives a very effective performance.

I shouldn’t say more about what happens to avoid spoilers. The film has a certain gloss, but basically it is a latest expression of a genre that has been worked to death in the past. You can sit back and enjoy the performances and let the plot roll over you without taking the mystery or its resolution too seriously. A Lionsgate release. Reviewed November 28, 2019.

Return to Previous Page