Rian Johnson has received critical acclaim for his work in the past, most notably for Brick and Looper, but sadly his brilliant and daring take on Star Wars: The Last Jedi has become so buried under a shroud of controversy, it almost feels as if he undeservedly has to remind everyone what an immense talent he really is. Hopefully, Knives Out will do just that.
His old-school ‘whodunnit’ murder mystery picture is the type of film that Hollywood sadly doesn’t make anymore, and the type that the mainstream industry in particular sorely needs more of. It’s a film that thrives solely on its storytelling, performances and delivery; one with no gimmicks and no cheap tricks to hide its failings. Johnson is showing all of his cards here, and it’s brilliant.
It’s difficult to express just how much fun this film actually is to readers who might not have seen it yet, as this is clearly a story that thrives on its topsy-turvy plot, but Johnson’s screenplay is so incredibly well-balanced that it’s difficult to find fault in it. There is just the right amount of comedy to keep its audience consistently laughing (the atmosphere in my screening was electric), but Johnson never sacrifices his plot. He has planned this out to every single detail; all the pieces knit together beautifully, and the mystery never stops being both engaging and surprising.
It’s worth noting the all-star cast involved here, with Christopher Plummer, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette and Don Johnson all playing their part, but it’s Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas who you’ll remember once the credits have finished rolling. Armas has featured in other films, with Blade Runner 2049 her most well-known role so far, but here she stars as arguably the film’s protagonist and, with a supporting cast of experienced pros, she performs with such confidence and charisma that one wonders why it’s taken until now for her to break Hollywood. This one is sure to do it.
As for Craig, channelling his inner-Poirot, there can really be no doubt that this is the most fun he’s had in his entire career, and it might even be his best performance (not bad for a man who’s played James Bond for over 13 years). If this is the type of film Craig wants to explore when he quits Bond, then we as an industry should welcome it with open arms. From virtually the moment he opens his mouth, he steals every single scene he’s in.
But, it’s Rian Johnson who steals the whole show. It’s obvious that this is a film made by someone who absolutely adores storytelling and respects it for the art form it truly is when fully utilised. All the spectacle in the world can’t hide a weak story and, on the flip-side, a great story needs no spectacle. Knives Out is that great story, told by someone with great imagination and at the top of his game. This might be the most fun film you’ll see this year.
Johnson is an exciting filmmaker with a bright future. Here’s hoping his work is better appreciated this time around.
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