Rian Johnson’s brilliantly entertaining Knives Out is on release now in Cineworld cinemas.
Following the apparent suicide of famous mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) at his own 85th birthday party, eccentric detective extraordinaire Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is called in to investigate.
He’s been hired by an anonymous individual, and quickly suspects foul play – the prime suspects being the rogues gallery that make up Thrombey’s own dysfunctional family. But which relative could have struck the killing blow, if it was even one of them at all? You’ll just need to book your tickets to discover the remarkably clever, kick-yourself answer.
With some of Hollywood’s finest in front of, and behind, the camera, Knives Out is set to be one of the best films of the year. With so many other great films releasing this month such as Le Mans ’66 (in cinemas now) and Frozen 2 (coming on the 22nd), it could be easy for this one to fall between the cracks.
To help you remember, here are five reasons why you don’t want to miss Knives Out.
1. It’s written and directed by Rian Johnson
Knives Out comes from the creative and witty mind of multi-award winning writer-director Rian Johnson. Although audiences may have been divided over Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Johnson’s previous film, it would be hard to deny his entry into the Star Wars series wasn’t just as visually stunning and impactful as the other saga entries, borrowing heavily from samurai heritage as the director applied his own twists to Jedi lore.
Of course The Last Jedi isn’t Johnson’s only success. He’s also known for blistering time-travel action movie Looper, in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis memorably faced off as older and younger versions of the same character.
Before that, Johnson made twisted high school noir thriller Brick, which featured Levitt in another excellent performance. And if that’s not enough, let’s not forget he helmed three episodes of TV masterpiece Breaking Bad, too, including the critically acclaimed ‘Ozymandias’ episode.
2. It features a razor-sharp ensemble cast
This upcoming whodunit also features a spectacular who’s-who of suspects. We’ve already mentioned that acting veteran Christopher Plummer and James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, will be featuring in the film – but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Accompanying them will be Captain America’s Chris Evans as grandson Ransom; Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis as uptight daughter Linda; Don Johnson, who recently appeared in Dragged Across Concrete, as Linda’s brash husband Richard; The Shape of Water's Michael Shannon as mysterious son Walt; Hereditary and Unbelievable’s Toni Collette as pompous step-sister Joni; and, last but in no way least, Ana de Armas as Thrombey’s nurse Marta, whom you might recognise as AI companion Joi in sci-fi epic Blade Runner 2049.
Seeing all of these wonderful actors together on screen can only make for an early Christmas present for film fans, even if one of them is unveiled to be Plummer’s murderer.
3. It’s a love letter to the genre with something to say
If, like us, you enjoy your mystery films, then you are definitely going to want to make sure to mark Knives Out on your calendar.
It’s not just because of all the talent involved – this is a project that has been made with a lot of love and respect for the classic whodunit formula concocted by Agatha Christie. It pays homage to classic stereotypes and tropes while at the same time adding topical and political notes that will surely get everyone talking.
Johnson has plenty of fun with his characters to create some genuinely hilarious moments. However, he isn’t afraid to use his biting sense of satire to create hard-hitting statements on our current climate, something The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey has compared to Jordan Peele’s breakout horror Get Out.
Of course, we can’t possibly reveal how said satire plays into the narrative – rest assured, however, you’ll come out of the film both amused and intrigued.
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4. It contains an intriguing mystery
Of course, what would a mystery film be without an actual mystery to solve? And if first impressions are to be believed, Johnson has accomplished something truly brilliant with his latest stab at the genre.
The movie has an irresistible hook, both tantalising and enjoyably familiar: a mysterious murder with a handful of suspects, each with their own motivation to kill, and brimming with countless twists to keep the narrative fresh and engrossing. Johnson even manages manages to turn the genre’s conventions on their head, and, more importantly, to keep us guessing throughout.
Trying to stay ahead of the game is one of the chief pleasures of watching murder mysteries, and Knives Out is no different. Can you solve this one before the answer is revealed? If you do, please don’t give the game away and spoil for fun for anyone else.
5. The critics adore it
Don’t just take our word for it. Critics who attended the film’s Toronto Film Festival premiere back in September have showered it with praise. Indeed, the movie boasts an impressive score of 84 on Metacritic and a whopping 97% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing.
David Ehrlich of IndieWire has commended Knives Out as "[a] crackling, devious, and hugely satisfying old-school whodunnit with a modern twist". The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee has likewise recognised Johnson’s own love for the genre, describing his juicy mystery as a "contemporary whodunnit that both respects and revises the subgenre", before acknowledging each cast member as “perfect” in their respective role.
Finally, there’s The Playlist – writer Charles Bramesco has given the upcoming mystery full marks, declaring simply "there’s so much to love about Johnson’s triumph", citing the skilful writing and pitch-perfect performances from its ensemble cast.
Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.