One thing (among many) that Alamo Drafthouse gets right is their customized, pre-movie interviews with filmmakers. Already excited to see KNIVES OUT, I got even more enthused when Writer/Director Rian Johnson mentioned his favorite film whodunits.
"Evil Under the Sun" and "Death on the Nile" with Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot are my faves as well. Johnson takes those classics, hurtles them into the present day and stuffs the screen with a terrific cast and a hilarious mystery that definitely kept me guessing.
NO SPOILERS here.
But definitely even more respect for Daniel Craig, who turns his role of OO7 on its head as Southern Private Detective Benoit Blanc. Sporting a loooonng drawl with a touch of creole, Craig creates a modern day Poroit whose brilliance and tenacity will be tested.
He arrives at the massive country mansion of famed mystery author Harlan Thombey (Christopher Plummer) who committed suicide one week ago.
The entire Thombey clan descends on the estate and luckily for us, most are hilariously evil in their own style.
Jamie Lee Curtis is the powerful Linda, married to Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson nailing every punchline) and oozing all the right grief.
Michael Shannon is oldest son Walt, manager of the Thrombey publishing empire and eager to have free reign on film and TV rights of his father's books.
Chris Evans (Captain America) is the youngest son. He's arrogant, brash and enjoying every perk of the family money.
Toni Collette (Hereditary) gets to show off her comedy skills as free-spirited Joni, once married to a Thrombey son whose since passed.
Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049) is Harlan's nurse and LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry To Bother You) is the local police detective trying to understand why Blanc doesn't think this is a suicide.
Throw all these characters together under one roof, stir in plenty of entitlement and dangle the reading of the will, mix in a very clear suicide and plenty of motive and you have the perfect recipe for one hell of a fun whodunit.
As Stanfield's Lieutenant Elliott says "Thomley practically lives in a Clue board". Indeed, perfectly so.
Johnson has written some fascinating and clever folks here and stages every facet perfectly, putting plenty of clues right in front of you, but I never saw any of them until Benoit brings the family together in one room, Poirot style to spell out what REALLY happened.
Craig's comic chops are unexpectedly great. Blanc's "donut hole" theory of how a case works is laugh-out-loud funny, as is his deliberate, slow paced delivery that lulls his suspects into comfort before he barrages them with rapid fire follow up.
We all huddled right after the movie and chatted about at least a half dozen plot points that were smart, witty and surprising. What more can you ask from a holiday movie?
I hope Benoit Blanc comes back for sequels, this is a role Craig could do for years and deliver the goods.
Anytime you drop Frank Oz (the voice of Yoda) into his first on screen role in 20 years and have Joseph Gordon Levitt voice a character on the phone, you're filling every corner of the screen with careful nuance.
Johnson's created an original work, loaded with suspense.
Sharpen your knives people, the Thromley's are not to be taken lightly.
KNIVES OUT cuts a sharp A.