Knives Out (2019): 2019’s Pop Culture Murder Mystery Dinner

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“Knives Out” is directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) and stars… well, pretty much everyone you know. To be completely serious though, “Knives Out” stars Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Exposed), Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger, Gifted), Daniel Craig (Skyfall, Logan Lucky), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Scream Queens), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter, The Shape of Water), Don Johnson (Miami Vice, Nash Bridges), Toni Collette (Hereditary, The Sixth Sense), Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You, Get Out), Katherine Langford (13 Reasons Why, Love, Simon), Jaeden Martell (It, The Book of Henry), and Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World, The Sound of Music). Holy crap, that’s a lot of names.

“Knives Out” takes place in the middle of Massachusetts and it typically centers around the interactions of a family after the death of a patriarch. Everybody gathers around a large house, everybody’s got a story, everybody’s got a motivation, but it is also up to a detective (Daniel Craig) to settle everyone down and find out the truth regarding what happened.

The murder mystery genre for me is kind of like horror, because I never take too many chances to dive into the genre itself. Granted, horror, at least to me, is a tad more predictable because it seems to have more of a staying power in today’s society, so I personally prefer the murder mystery genre. In fact, my favorite “Family Guy” episode ever, “And Then There Were Fewer,” is a murder mystery, so I do have some respect for the genre. And honestly, when it comes to Rian Johnson, I will admit that I have had a slight bad taste in my mouth because of the way he handled “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s a film that just got significantly worse after I first saw it. In fact, when I watched it a second time, I was kind of turned off by the result. I say that because I wanted the movie to go in a different direction than say “The Empire Strikes Back,” which is a great movie. However, despite the everlasting love and affection I have for 2015’s “The Force Awakens,” one minor flaw with that movie is the way they manage to basically rehash the earliest “Star Wars.” Granted, it’s a fantastic homage which had many repeat viewings for me. But as much as I originally appreciated it for going in a different direction, a lot of the choices they made to go in such a direction were sort of faulty and questionable.

However, having seen that movie, I now know that Johnson might as well be one to subvert expectations. Here’s the thing. Murder mysteries are supposed to keep you guessing. If this movie could keep me on the edge of my seat and questioning everything, then I’d walk out satisfied.

Honestly, I went into this movie with an idea of what is going to be. It turns out, I got something better than what I thought I would get. And that says a lot because the hype behind this movie felt real for me. The production design is some of the best I have seen all year. The acting, not to mention casting in general, is perfect. Everyone from Daniel Craig to Ana De Armas to Toni Collette, everyone served their roles properly and put a smile on my face.

I’ll just say though, I think the two most popular award ceremonies that have to with movies are the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. I have had a history of talking about both ceremonies on here, especially the Academy. But I never usually talk about another popular ceremony, the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards. One of the biggest awards they present on the night of the ceremony is one given to the entire ensemble of actors. We still have about a month left before 2019 is over, and a little longer than that until the ceremony takes place, but I’d argue that at this point, “Knives Out” has an extremely solid chance at winning such an award. I think purely based on how Rian Johnson has to handle so many actors at once, many of whom happened to already establish their name in the industry, including a couple who are a bit lesser known, there is a chance “Knives Out” could walk away with the biggest award from that ceremony.

One of the more solid examples that could let that case be true is Daniel Craig, who plays Benoit Blanc in the film. His performance, was part of what set the tone for the entire movie for me. Daniel Craig, while taking his performance seriously, realizes that this movie is sort of supposed to be fun. His introduction scene almost made me think I was watching something from Wes Anderson, because it is charming, quirky, and based on the way it was directed, I was perhaps hypnotized to leave the film, regardless of whether or not I liked it, admiring Craig in all his glory.

Another standout performer to me is one of the leads, Chris Evans. I think most of what I love about this performance has mainly to do with the screenplay and how the character is written. I say that because the movie is full of tense dialogue between characters, which allows serious vibes to kick in, but Evans manages to play a character who is incredibly laid back and sort of a smartass. Do I think other people could have played his character? Personally, yes, I think I could have played it if I tried, because if I were in this situation, this is probably how I would act. I’d try to have fun with the seriousness at hand, while also trying to deal with the current situation.

As for smaller roles, I think there are a number of them that stand out. Jamie Lee Curtis, Jaeden Martell, but the one I want to talk about is the one given by Toni Collette. I think Collette is not only a great performer here, but brought such life to her character that I cannot imagine anyone else bringing at all, or at least without being cringeworthy. Collette’s character sort of reminds me of a crazy aunt who likes to party. Maybe another good example is the mother from ABC’s “The Goldbergs,” minus the toxic affection she has for offspring. In a way, she’s almost like Chris Evans’ character, because as much as everyone else may be moody or depressed, which she kind of is at times, but still, she has a somewhat happy outlook on current happenings. Either that or she may just have some sort of God-given charisma that nobody else can have.

But if you ask me, I think the best performance in the film is given by Ana de Armas, an actress who I personally happened to have liked before this film came out, and someone who may been the main reason why this film was originally put on my radar. For the record, Ana de Armas was one of the supporting roles in my 2nd favorite film of 2017, and one of my favorite sci-fi films of the decade, “Blade Runner 2049.” She has this ability to take a challenging role and own it. Because in that movie she played a holographic woman that was supposed to have a connection to whoever owned them. The complexity of that role involved being someone who is robotic enough to serve their master, while also being human enough to understand emotion, because in that movie she was someone who happened to be in love with the main character. At the same time, it was almost as if she was a product of the main character’s desires.

As for this movie, we get more of a glance at a character where Ana de Armas has a personality where she is more worried about saving herself. In fact, I mentioned earlier that Daniel Craig presented himself as this quirky, out of nowhere detective. If you ask me, I think the biggest quirk in the movie didn’t necessarily come from him, and instead, came from Ana de Armas. Because she plays a character who practically cannot lie. If all other people were like her, she’d make the lie detector test obsolete. I say that because her character cannot tell a lie, otherwise she throws up. This makes every scene where Armas is forced to tell a truth or where she is being questioned all the more intriguing because not only was I, as an audience member, hypnotized to follow the mystery as it was unraveled, but I was also somewhat concerned for the character’s sanity, health, and sense of self.

From a technical standpoint, the cinematography in the film is amazing. The various dutch angles fit a number of the scenes and sort of had an old Hollywood vibe. The music is outstanding. By the way, such music is composed by Rian Johnson’s cousin, Nathan Johnson, who also worked with him in films like “Brick” and “Looper.” I think Rian Johnson could have a chance for being nominated in the Best Director category, I think his vision helped this movie immensely. This honestly feels like a movie that only he could have done. Maybe one or two other people could do this, but this feels like a personal project. And as much as I despise “The Last Jedi,” I could see what Rian Johnson was trying to do with that movie, because he not only directed that film, but he wrote it as well. “Star Wars” to me, must be a more collaborative piece of media to work on at this point, and with “The Force Awakens” pointing in a certain direction, it admittedly feels odd looking back to see one man with perhaps a sole vision take over for a big film that could expand on previous lore and build up to the next one which happens to conclude a trilogy. These are the kinds of films that I would prefer to see Johnson tackle. Could he do another big franchise in the future? Maybe, but I want to see more of his original work. Media that feels like something only he could own.

I honestly don’t even know what problems come to mind with “Knives Out.” The camerawork is some of the best I have seen all year. The characters are all charismatic. The screenplay is nothing short of outstanding. The ending, as well done as it is, is little choppy in buildup. As for other problems, if there are any, they are a bit hard to point out. Overall, this movie kicks ass!

In the end, “Knives Out,” the movie with perhaps the most badass title of all time, packs a brutal punch of bloody goodness. It is easily one of the best movies of the year, and a step in the right direction for Rian Johnson as a filmmaker. I have not checked out his earlier work, but I really want to check out “Looper.” Films like these are the ones I’ll be excited for when it comes to Rian Johnson’s filmography. Films that are original, exhilarating, and keep me on the edge of my seat. If I have to say one more thing, I will suggest that you’d go see this movie with the biggest crowd you can. If you have one of those theaters with reserved seating near you, buy your tickets online and see how many people have already reserved seats. If there many seats reserved already, I implore you, PLEASE buy a ticket to that show because this is a movie where crowd reactions enhance the experience to the tenth degree. I’m going to give “Knives Out” a 9/10.

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Thanks for reading this review! Just want to announce to everyone reading that during this Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to be showing off my newest trailer for “Top Movies of the 2010s,” a project I plan to release this January, it is going to be the most ambitious countdown series I have done yet, and I cannot wait to share it with you all! If you want to be notified about this trailer, here’s what you can do. Follow Scene Before with an email, or if you want greater access, use a WordPress account! If you are on Facebook, check out MY PAGE and give it a like! I want to know, did you see “Knives Out?” What did you think about it? Or, who happens to be your favorite fictional dysfunctional family? It can be from anything, books, movies, TV, you name it! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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