Eighty-five-year old wealthy, successful crime novel writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), is dead. His body is found, throat cut, his hand holding the knife. “Open-shut suicide,” say Massachusetts state police — Detective Lt. Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) and trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) — but private detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), is not convinced. “Physical evidence can tell a story with a forked tongue,” he says, with his southern drawl. That’s the setup for this engrossing, old-fashioned whodunit, “Knives Out.”
Does anyone in Harlan’s unhappy family not have a motive for wishing him dead? Can detective Blanc believe their lame alibis? “They all lied to me,” he says. Will you be entertained by “Knives Out” and its all-star cast? I was.
Jamie Lee Curtis is Harlan’s daughter Linda who, she tells detective Elliott, “built my real estate business from the ground up.” Don Johnson plays her philandering husband Richard, and Chris Evans is their playboy son, Hugh Ransom Drysdale. He goes by his middle name and, somehow, forgot his grandfather’s funeral. Michael Shannon is “baby brother” Walt, who runs his father’s printing business, publishing two bestsellers a year, written by his father. Toni Collette is ditsy daughter-in-law, Joni, who owns a skin-care company called Flam. K. Callan is Greatnana Wanetta, Harlan’s (almost) silent mother, who sits alone by the parlor window.
Non-family members in the cast include Ana de Armas as Marta Cabera, nurse/caregiver to Harlan. “He needed help,” she says. “He needed a friend.” Harlan trusts only her. Daniel Craig is a soft-spoken Tennessee private eye who doesn’t know who hired him. “I’m here,” he says, “because an envelope of cash showed up at my house. You’ll find me a respectful, quiet observer of the truth.” Eli Patterson is Thrombey housekeeper, Fran. LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Segan are state police officers, Elliott and Wagner.
“Knives Out” is, first of all, an old-fashioned entertainment — like an Agatha Christie murder mystery, with multiple suspects, all with motives, its action taking place, mostly, in the family’s Gothic Revival stately manor. Rian Johnson is writer/director, with elegant cinematography by Steve Yedlin, production design by David Crank, and music by the director’s cousin, Nathan Johnson. Everyone seems to have had a good time putting this entertainment together. You’ll have a good time watching it.
Rated PG-13 for themes, violence, strong language, sexual references, drugs, and smoking, “Knives Out” runs 130 minutes. So maybe they do make movies like they used to.
How did Harlan Thrombey die?
Foul play or suicide?
Lots of suspects, motives, lies —
Lots of plot twists, then — surprise!