Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong who done it mystery
Cons: Gratuitous politics and bathroom humor
The Bottom Line:
Who killed patriarch?
Classic big screen mystery
Few missteps, but fun
Killer Mystery Movie
Being the mystery fan that I am, it was impossible to avoid hearing about Knives Out when it was released last fall. All of my mystery loving friends were raving about it. I didn’t make it out to see the movie in the theater, but I did recently watch it. I mostly enjoyed it.
The action of the movie takes place a week about author Harlan Thrombey’s (Christopher Plummer) death. He was discovered with his throat slashed the morning after his family had gathered at his home for his birthday party. The initial coroner’s conclusion is that he slit his own throat. However, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) was hired by an anonymous source to figure out what really happened. On the surface, the family seems to be a loving, caring unit. But under the surface, motives and resentments boil. Did one of them kill Harlan? Can Blanc find the truth?
It is easy to see why this movie made so many of my mystery loving friends happy. It is a very good mystery. I was pulled into the story, trying to sift through clues and suspects to figure out what was really going on. The solution is something that would make Agatha Christie proud, but all the pieces are there when Blanc finally confronts the villain.
It seems like most big screen mystery movies that have been released over the last few years have leaned toward suspense over a pure who done it. The emphasis here is on the who done it, however, and there are some funny scenes and moments to help break the tension.
The movie has an impressive mix of big names and people I didn’t recognize but probably should have. They are all amazing at bringing their characters to life. The script calls for their masks to slowly slip, and the actors pull it off perfectly.
There were a couple of things I didn’t appreciate, however. One is the politics of immigration. It comes up a few times in the movie, and when they spoke to motive, they were handled okay. But there is one scene that is clearly gratuitous and used to push a political agenda. It added nothing to the plot, and the movie would have been stronger without it.
One of the characters is her own lie detector – she throws up every time she lies. Naturally, this comes into play several times over the course of the movie, and I found it distasteful each time. Yes, it was played for laughs, but I didn’t find it funny.
As a fan of Hallmark’s mystery movies, I especially enjoyed a shout out to a fictitious Hallmark mystery movie. It’s mentioned a few times, and I smiled each time.
Also a fun shout out was an Agatha teapot hidden in the background of one scene. What am I talking about? This is the award given out each year to traditional mysteries at the Malice Domestic convention. I love that the producers put one of those into the film.
It’s nice to see a classic who done it on the big screen again. While there are definitely moments of Knives Out that I didn’t appreciate, on the whole I enjoyed this modern take on a classic mystery.