By Turner Cline
I would have to report myself to the Honor Council if I did not say that my expectations for Knives Out were, at the very least, low. A pastel, Wes Anderson-inspired murder mystery does not fit in with my usual taste in films. However, I was completely immersed in this over-the-top world within five seconds of taking my seat. Watching the film, and all its campy, opulent features, left a giddy kind of smile on my face which I have not felt in many a year.
Knives Out cleverly employs some of the greatest tropes of the mystery genre, from secret walls to small-town Southern sleuths. However, much of the film’s charm, the real “meat and potatoes,” comes from its great characters and performances. Daniel Craig is absolutely stunning as the witty and inquisitive Detective Benoit Blanc, and Ana de Amas adds a tremendous deal of warmth and humanity as hired nurse and friend Marta Cabrera.
The rest of the main cast, the Thrombey clan, is a wonderful parody of the modern American elite. The political commentary of this film is inescapable. This family has right-wing twerps, faux liberal self-help influencers, racist uncles, and failed sons in spades, reflecting the real-life crisis in the culture of our financially endowed.
The film draws a lot of influence from the American Leftist movement, with its climax calling for an unequivocal redistribution of wealth from the 1%. The film notably places establishment Democrats on the chopping board with right-wingers with characters that make Gwyneth Paltrow look like Wherner von Braun.
Knives Out is further enriched by a palette of dynamic cinematography and clever writing. The film goes from the chaotic intimacy of handheld camerawork to smooth establishing shots without missing a beat or wasting a shot. The film’s dialogue, delivered by its ensemble cast, remains one of its best features. Most notably, the platonic chemistry between Amas and Christopher Plummer stands out in their few scenes through their compelling friendship and the way their performances poignantly play off each other.
However, the film does have some key issues. In its attempts to enrich the characters with side conflicts, the movie weakens the cohesion and intrigue of the mystery, which may alienate fans of the genre. Furthermore, though the writing is clever, the film is subtle with a hard B. Everything from the wardrobe to lighting gives off a garish, rich aesthetic, reminiscent of an Instagram filter.
The politics of the movie are so extrusive that you could cut them with a knife. It draws a lot of influence from the American Leftist movement, with its climax calling for an unequivocal redistribution of wealth from the 1%. That being said, it is clear that these are intentional aspects of the film’s world by the creators, adding to the loud, campy, and decadent style that the movie pursues. Though this is not the next great masterpiece in cinema, Knives Out is well worth anyone’s time.