"Knives Out"

This image released by Lionsgate shows Katherine Langford (from left) Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Riki Lindholm and Jaeden Lieberher in a scene from “Knives Out.”

I love a good mystery, and I adore figuring out a whodunit. Films. Books. You name it. If there’s a mystery to solve, I’ll try to figure it out. Basically, I’m Dorothy in that episode of “The Golden Girls” where the girls take part in a murder mystery weekend, and Dorothy keeps trying to figure out everything.

This love of mysteries had me practically chomping at the bit for “Knives Out,” from director Rian Johnson. It’s a whodunit in the vein and style of an Agatha Christie thriller. Daniel Craig might not be Poirot, but he’s an interesting character nonetheless.

The film centers on the Thrombley family. The patriarch, Harlan (Christopher Plummer), has died of an apparent suicide, leaving his family allegedly reeling. He’s the successful author of dozens of books and just celebrated his 85th birthday. It doesn’t make sense, but each family member is working to accept it. And hide their potential motive for wanting him dead.

There’s Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her husband, Richard (Don Johnson). The latter has a secret Harlan threatened to expose. Then there’s Joni (Toni Collett), Harlan’s daughter-in-law, who’s relied on Harlan’s generosity since her husband — and his son — died years earlier, leaving her with a daughter, Meg (Katherine Langford) and a cash-sucking company. Or maybe it’s Walt (Michael Shannon), the son who’s been running Harlan’s publishing company for years … and fighting to get film adaptations made of his father’s novels. Don’t forget Ransom (Chris Evans), the black sheep grandson who’s lived off the fruits of everyone’s labors his entire life.

Each member of Harlan’s family has a reason to love him. And hate him. The only person who seems to be motiveless is Marta (Ana de Armas), Harlan’s nurse, confidant and friend.

Was Harlan murdered? Or did he really slit his own throat? That’s the question private investigator Benoit Blanc (Craig) must answer.

The audience actually gets the answer earlier in the film than you would expect. But, nothing is quite so clear cut. We know what happens.

Or do we?

Johnson is both director and writer for “Knives Out.” It’s a familiar spot for Johnson, who also pulled double duty on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Looper” and “Brick” among others. While “The Last Jedi,” divided millions of fans, reactions to “Knives Out” have been less angry.

For a mystery fan, “Knives Out” offers a wonderful whodunit. We not only try to figure out if Harlan killed himself, but once we know our brains are trying to process the ins and out of what we know. My phrasing makes it sound a bit convoluted, but it’s honestly quite thrilling to try to figure out.

But, it’s not just the mystery that makes “Knives Out” an entertaining outing. The film is also well written with clever dialogue and subtle humor throughout. While some moments are a bit over the top, there are plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments that make you chuckle or even laugh out loud. The film has garnered three Golden Globe nominations, drawing a best picture nod as well as nods for Craig and de Armas, all in the “musical or comedy” categories.

Each actor plays his/her part well, although some have more to work with than others. For de Armas, there’s a running gag that Marta vomits anytime she tells a lie. In some films, that would be the equivalent of a character passing gas or a poop joke, but it surprisingly works here without ever seeming too ridiculous.

It’s also interesting to see Evans in a role that is a bit dastardly. Ransom is a jerk to all those around him, and he’s not well liked in his family. He seems to relish the role, while other characters simply feel like plot devices, such as Meg or Jacob (Jaeden Martell), or Walt’s son who maybe says 10-15 words in the film. I’m not sure his wife, Donna (Riki Lindhome), says that many.

Overall, I enjoyed “Knives Out.” It’s a slow burn and more than a little quirky. It’s a film that makes you want to wear a cozy sweater with a cup of Earl Grey and a good book, settling down to sort clues and wait for that famous parlor reveal.

Amanda Greever is a former editor, designer and writer at The Daily Times. She now works

in public relations. Contact her at


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