Star-studded 'Knives Out' cuts sharp, comic whodunit tale

  • Erstwhile James Bond 007 star Daniel Craig evolves into a Southern detective in "Knives Out."

    Erstwhile James Bond 007 star Daniel Craig evolves into a Southern detective in "Knives Out." Courtesy of Lionsgate

 
 
Updated 11/27/2019 10:57 AM

"Knives Out" -- ★ ★ ★

To call "Knives Out" Ian Fleming meets Agatha Christie might be tempting, but it would be highly inaccurate.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That's because Daniel Craig breaks his bond with 007 to play a detective closer to his rube prisoner from "Logan Lucky."

In Rian Johnson's hilariously clever "Knives Out," a self-effacing ode to classic boardroom whodunits, Craig's detective Benoit Blanc works like a cornpone Hercule Poirot on the case of an apparent suicide.

The day after his 85th birthday, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), the world's richest mystery novelist, has apparently cut his throat.

At the obligatory reading of the will, Blanc beholds a host of relatives and associates with motives for his murder.

Rian Johnson's cleverly conceived whodunit "Knives Out" features Don Johnson, left, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, K Callan, Ana de Armas, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, Jaeden Lieberher, Riki Lindholm, Toni Collette and Katherine Langford.
Rian Johnson's cleverly conceived whodunit "Knives Out" features Don Johnson, left, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, K Callan, Ana de Armas, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, Jaeden Lieberher, Riki Lindholm, Toni Collette and Katherine Langford. - Courtesy of Lionsgate

Thrombey's most likely heirs include his offspring, the steely Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), passive-aggressive Walt (Michael Shannon) and new-agey widowed Joni (Toni Collette), plus his black sheep grandson Ransom (Chris Evans with rolling eyes exceeding the speed limit).

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Linda's hubby, Richard (Don Johnson), doesn't look that trustworthy, either.

When an attorney (Frank Oz) announces the fortune goes to Thrombey's immigrant nurse Marta (a wide-eyed, innocent Ana de Armas), the metaphorical knives barely come out before the real ones do.

What follows is Johnson's insanely complex, yet easy-to-follow mystery (no small challenge for fans of Rubic-Cube plotting) that harks back to star-driven 1970s whodunits "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Death on the Nile" laced with a bit of Neil Simon's "Murder By Death."

The black sheep of the family, Ransom (Chris Evans), could be a key suspect in a murder in "Knives Out."
The black sheep of the family, Ransom (Chris Evans), could be a key suspect in a murder in "Knives Out." - Courtesy of Lionsgate

Johnson (the Rian one) lets the humor walk on the wild, meta side.

"I keep waiting for the big reveal!" Linda says. She's in a movie so self-aware that characters rate their own car chase scene as not very good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Smart and twisty, "Knives Out" cuts a cinematic cake iced with intricately shifted flashbacks and flash-forwards, along with competing versions of the truth told with seeming sincerity.

We might agree with Ransom, who says, "We gotta do this more often."

• • •

Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Christopher Plummer, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Ana de Armas

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Other: A Lionsgate release. Rated PG-13 for drug use, language, sexual references, violence. 130 minutes

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