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There is no sub-genre quite like the whodunnit, having completely eclipsed its parents, the mystery and murder genres, surpassing the short story, novel and movie media to reach board game and live action role play status.
But as a fan of the whodunnit, I have to say that after reading the works of Agatha Christie, most modern whodunnits are tired reworks of the same trope with little originality beyond wordplay.
That being said, Rian Johnson’s latest movie Knives Out plays on the same tropes and yet remains fresh. It tells the story of an affluent family whose patriarch is found murdered, almost every one is suspect and an eccentric detective with an accent and a French name is brought in to solve the murder.
Sounds familiar? A bit too Poirot-esque? Or perhaps it tastes like a whodunnit smoothie, made of tired tropes. The story takes place primarily at a country manor. Our eclectic elderly victim, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) just happens to be a crime writer and the lead detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) seems to go through a truly lung-darkening number of cigars.
The movie doesn’t take long to get into the actual nitty-gritty solving of the crime and Benoit interviews Harlan’s daughter Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), son-in-law Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson), son Walter Thrombey (Michael Shannon) and the obvious suspect, nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas).
Despite the stereotype smoothie, Rian, who has a reputation for spurring expectations having directed Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and several of Breaking Bad’s finest episodes, adds in a healthy dose of chemistry to make the story much more enjoyable.
As the story progresses, it’s notable that there is very little advanced technology used to drive the crime solving until the end. Just a healthy dose of talking, numerous jabs at current American politics to remind us that this is not a period piece and a nurse who can’t help but vomit when she lies.
I thought the last piece would be overkill and just a desperate plot device with a side of cheap laughs, but Ana’s acting nuance really made one empathise with her.
One thing I did realise early on was the murderer, simply because of how late they came into the main story and their star status. Yet, I still enjoyed the ride as well as the twists at the end. The highlight for me was Daniel’s acting.
While everyone’s first thought when they see the piercing-eyed actor is a British spy with a proclivity for promiscuity and very specific preparations of a select beverage, he also has a casual sense of perfect comedic timing.
Both these sides come together to give us an unforgettable modern-day detective. And I for one am excited to see the future adventures of Benoit Blanc.
As for this one, while I enjoyed the ride, the mystery was too obvious with unnecessary but very enjoyable frills. And for that entertaining predictability, this movie earns its 3.5 stars.