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'Knives Out': A stylish, nostalgic murder mystery

Teresa Yovela

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Thu, November 28, 2019  /  11:28 am

As the screen turned black and the end credits began to roll, the whole theater started cheering and clapping, even though the Indonesian premiere wasn’t attended by anyone who contributed to the movie’s production. 

Knives Out is just that incredible. I was left silent in my seat, as people started walking to the exit while singing the detective film’s praises.

As much as I loved the idea of watching a vintage-themed film with Frank Sinatra’s "I’m Gonna Live Till I Die" in its soundtrack, I was expecting a two-hour-plus elaborated answer to the “Who did it?” question.

But this film made me stop asking and just enjoy the artistic scenes, smooth transitions and slightly humorous feel. It wasn’t a slow burn, rather a complex plot that was different but familiar at the same time. 

Private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) reminds me of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, but as much as director Rian Johnson seems to have wanted to stick to traditional whodunits, the back story is notably distinct. Set in 2019 in the United States, Craig’s character is Southern American with a thick accent. The genre’s classic socialite is swapped for an influencer, and instead of a butler, we get a Latina nurse named Martha (Ana de Armas), who also happens to be the lead. 

Christopher Plummer plays wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey, who was found dead after slicing his throat after his 85th birthday dinner. Police have ruled it a suicide, but Blanc isn’t convinced. He is hired by an unknown person to investigate.

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Along with Detective Lieutenant Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield), Blanc questions the family members again. The grieving family includes eldest daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), her husband Richard (Don Johnson), son Walt (Michael Shannon), daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette), granddaughter Meg (Katherine Langford) and bad boy Ransom (Chris Evans), whose flamboyant ways remind Harlan of himself. 

As the dysfunctional (and secretive) family members protect each other, they quickly learn that their father left all his possessions for his confidante and only friend, Martha, who coincidentally throws up when lying.

Desperate, petty and broke, they compete for Martha’s affection while trying to frame her for murder. But the real killer is out there, and Detective Blanc is the only one looking. 

Inspired by his last film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s excessive online hatred, director Johnson created Jaeden Martell’s character Jacob, Walt’s internet-troll son. This is just an example of the many ways the film delivers fresh touches while adhere to the old-school feel that we expect from whodunits.

With a fascinating script and with dazzling performances by the cast, Knives Out delivers a stylish, nostalgic murder mystery that sets a high bar for upcoming films in the genre. (kes)

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The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post

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