You will be hard-pressed this holiday season to find a better time at the movies than with Rian Johnson's delightful murder mystery Knives Out. The film is a tightly crafted ride full of depraved elitists, sweaters, secret passageways and yes, knives. However, what stands out is how Johnson has hidden within the film a political critique and empathetic message of tolerance. Think Poirot with a dash of immigration activism.
The central clan of the film is the Thrombeys. At the head of the family is Harlan (Christopher Plummer), a hugely successful mystery writer whose children leach his wealth. When Harlan ends up dead from an apparent suicide, the family gathers together to answer questions from two detectives (Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan) and a mysterious private investigator (Daniel Craig). Everyone has a motive with so much wealth in question. Johnson uses flashbacks to show the night before Harlan's death from multiple angles.
As Benoit Blanc, Daniel Craig shines with a Southern accent akin to Foghorn Leghorn and a flare for the dramatic. He quickly latches on to Marta (Ana de Armas) who was Harlan's caretaker. She is the one outsider in the circle of suspects. Blanc trusts her because she throws up anytime she tries to lie. Her moral nature sets her apart from the smarmy family who all had something to gain from Harlan passing away. Marta could be a simple character but she has a lot more going on than the film first reveals.
The mystery element of Knives Out is fun but I suspect any seasoned lover of mysteries will figure out what is going on well before the third act reveal. The real joys in the film come from the game, excellent cast and the film's hidden message. The cast features Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon and Chris Evans. They are all wonderful and seem to be having a great time chewing up the scenery and spitting Johnson's witty lines. The film's message about intolerance for others and the corrupting nature of wealth especially inherited wealth, adds a modern flair to an old-fashioned Agatha Christie type murder mystery.