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“Knives Out” Film Review

“Knives Out” is the latest film from writer/director Rian Johnson. You can watch the trailer below, but be forewarned: You might see some images that enter spoiler territory. (This review, however, will stay spoiler-free.)

The movie has a star-studded cast, including Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Lakeith Stanfield, Jaeden Martell and Katherine Langford. It also features Ana de Armas in what is sure to be a breakout role. Most of the listed cast are members of the Thrombey family, headed by patriarch Harlan (Plummer), an author who built a publishing empire and created vast wealth for his family. The exceptions are his nurse Marta Cabrera (de Armas), a cop named Lieutenant Elliott (Stanfield) and a mysterious P.I. named Benoit Blanc (Craig).

The plot is as follows: Harlan Thrombey is found dead in his study the morning after his 85th birthday party. It’s an apparent suicide, but not everyone buys into that. Did someone kill Thrombey? If so, who? And what was the motive?

As you can tell, this film gets plenty of its DNA from existing pop culture: “Clue,” Agatha Christie’s stories — one character even watches “Murder She Wrote” at one point in this movie! If you love, or have ever loved, a murder mystery/whodunnit, then you’re going to enjoy “Knives Out.” For a film with such dark subject matter, it’s wildly funny and very (literally) bright. Johnson is at the top of his game in both writing and directing with this one. Anyone familiar with this genre will know that nothing is ever quite as it seems, and Johnson leaves plenty of little tidbits for the audience to pick up on.

Of course, with a cast like that, the acting is out of this world. Ana de Armas carries so much of the film, and she’s a charming and likable, if subdued, lead. Toni Collette is her foil as a hilariously over-the-top, New Age-y widow and single mother trying to run her own version of Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP. Chris Evans is always a joy to watch, but seeing him as a wealthy, entitled 30-something who will never really grow up is something else. Daniel Craig is clearly having tons of fun as the very southern and eccentric Benoit Blanc. And Christopher Plummer’s performance stands out more than you might think, for someone who plays a character whose main attribute in the movie is dying.

Johnson and the cast must have had so much fun with the bickering that the family does endlessly throughout the film. They may love each other, but if so, they never make it clear — to each other or to the audience. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, as it ups the entertainment factor, and it’ll probably make you glad you’re not a part of that clan. Politics isn’t off the table either, making this quite possibly the best Thanksgiving movie out there.

And you know who else deserves accolades? Production designer David Crank, art director Jeremy Woodward, set decorator David Schlesinger and costume designer Jenny Eagan. The world that these people live in comes to life in the mansion and its grounds, while the characters themselves are made all the more whole due to their wardrobes. All of that is truly a sight to see on the big screen.

In a year full of great movies, “Knives Out” could easily go down as one of the best. It’s fun and full of talent — but not without substance — and a perfect fit for the holiday season.

“Knives Out” is in theaters nationwide on Wednesday, November 27.

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