Toronto 2019: Knives Out

From left to right. Richard (Don Johnson), Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), Ransom (Chris Evans) Great Nana (K Callan), Marta (Ana de Armas), Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) Walt (Michael Shannon), Jacob (Jaeden Lieberher), Donna (Riki Lindholm), Joni (Toni Collette) and Meg (Katherine Langford) in KNIVES OUT. Photo credit: Claire Folger.

Knives Out may be a murder mystery comedy but no stone goes unturned in what is certainly one of the best laugh riots in 2019.

Crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is discovered dead on the morning after his 85th birthday party.  We don’t know whether he was killed or whether he did the deed himself.  What we do know is that members of the Thrombey family are being questioned by Lt. Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan).  Little do they know that sitting behind them is the world-renown PI Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).  Did a family member have a motive?  Nobody seems to know.  What is known is that Harlan’s caregiver, Marta (Ana de Armas), took him upstairs and left the house at midnight.

Harlan left behind quite the family.  The family’s black sheep is none other than Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans).  Ransom is Richard (Don Johnson) and Linda Drysdale’s (Jamie Lee Curtis) son.  Married into the family is lifestyle guru and Instagram influencer Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette).  Joni’s husband may have died but this doesn’t stop Harlan from keeping them up and paying for granddaughter Meg’s (Katherine Langford) college tuition.  There is Walt (Michael Shannon) and Donna (Riki Lindholm) Thrombey with alt-right racist son Jacob (Jaeden Martell).  Marta and Fran are also among the family’s staff.  If you can keep up with the entire family, you’re going to do just fine.

There’s no shortage of political commentary in this modern whodunnit either.  We see this by way of Walt and Donna’s son, Jacob.  I especially love that Rian Johnson isn’t afraid to take such bold risks.  We saw this during Star Wars: The Last Jedi and we saw it again tonight.  Even though the film doesn’t turn the genre upside down, it’s a delightful update.  What especially helps is Daniel Craig taking on a role as a private investigator from the south.  It’s a nice change of pace from seeing Craig every few years in Bond.  Honestly, I would put his work here in a similar place to what he did in Logan Lucky.  He can certainly surprise us every now and then!

Daniel Craig and Chris Evans may be the top-billed actors but the big star here is Ana de Armas.  She goes toe to toe with some big Hollywood names while managing to hold her own.  Of course, she went toe to toe with Ryan Gosling as Joi in Blade Runner 2049.  It’s because of her character that there’s a poignant political subtext about immigration.

Throughout the film, more and more gets revealed as the investigation comes to a climax.  I won’t bother you with any of the details because of spoilers.  All you need to know is that you’re certainly going to be laughing up a storm!  While I certainly cannot tell you which jokes (or actions) get the biggest laughs of the film, Ransom telling his entire family to “eat shit” is one of the highlights.

While the film is certainly a comedy, a combination of musical score, editing, and camerawork lend a thriller vibe every now and then.  No matter what happens, everything comes back full circle to come and the laughs ensue yet again.  The acting performances don’t hurt either.  While Craig gives us his best Southern accent, Jamie Lee Curtis does amazing work for laughs by delivering a deadpan performance.  It’s amazing.

Going into Toronto, I knew that Knives Out would be among my most-anticipated films.  I did not go away feeling disappointed at all.  In fact, this film gave me everything that I could have ever wanted in the film.  I cannot wait to see this laugh riot again!

Knives Out gives us a hysterical whodunnit for a new generation of movie lovers.

CAST: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Noah Segan, Edi Patterson, Riki Lindhome, and Christopher Plummer

Knives Out holds its world premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in the Special Presentations program. Lionsgate will release the film on November 27, 2019. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.