Note: This review was written out of this year's Fantastic Fest, and is being republished to coincide with Knives Out's release in theaters. It is in no way spoilery.
This review will not contain spoilers for Knives Out. This review will also be somewhat abbreviated, because virtually any discussion of Knives Out beyond its technical accomplishments (which are considerable) or its basic premise (elderly scion dies on his birthday, a kooky detective arrives to investigate, everyone's a suspect) pretty much demands dipping into spoiler territory.
And God help you if you spoil Knives Out for anyone. Rian Johnson, most recently seen directing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, has now delivered one of the year's absolute best films, a fresh, funny, intricate whodunnit which deserves to be experienced by audiences that have no idea what they're getting into. This thing has twists on top of twists on top of twists. It doesn't behave as you'd expect it to. It's timely, meticulously-crafted, beautifully shot by Steve Yedlin, and is overflowing with performances from actors who have long lived atop your list of faves: Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas (who's quite possibly the MVP of the whole movie), Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, Chris Evans (playing strongly against type), Edi Patterson, and - last, but certainly not least - infrequent BMD contributor and longtime Rian Johnson muse Noah Segan. There's not a weak link in this bunch; every performance is worth luxuriating in.
But then, this is a movie made to be luxuriated in. The bulk of the action takes place within a big, moderately gothic mansion on the east coast, and every room in that mansion feels like one you'd want to explore. The dialogue is sharp and consistently witty, which is doubly good news - Knives Out contains a number of dialogue-heavy sequences, more than the average movie, and not once did I get bored listening to these characters pinball off one another. I was reminded of this summer's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Johnson has crafted the kind of movie you'd like to live inside of.
But Knives Out reminded me of a bunch of other movies, and in more direct ways. I've always been a big fan of this particular genre, and threaded into Knives Out's DNA are strands from Clue and Death Trap and pretty much any Agatha Christie adaptation you can name. This is, as advertised, an homage to that legendary mystery author, gracefully updated for the year 2019. I was caught off-guard by how thoroughly the film commits to that bit, but I'm reluctant to elaborate further on that train of thought; again, these are things best left for you to discover in the theater. For now, all I'll say is that Johnson has clearly been taking notes while kicking around on Twitter. He knows the lingo.
Will Knives Out be for everyone? I'm not so sure. It's an unusually intelligent film, careening through its many twists and turns without pausing to make sure you're up to speed before taking yet another hard left. I can imagine some moviegoers calling it "talky" or "too complicated". The good news is, every audience member is different, and Knives Out was clearly not made with that type of audience member in mind. This one's for the type of people who say shit like "you'd like to live inside this movie", not the sort of folks who just wanna "turn their brains off at the door". Knives Out demands that you stick with it, that you do a little of your own legwork alongside Daniel Craig's Benoit Blanc, and thank god for that: movies like this are in short supply. If we could get a new Benoit Blanc caper every three years, I'd be the happiest goddamn person in the world.
Anyway, this is about all I can say about Knives Out without busting out the spoilers, so I'll stop here. Just know that this is one of the year's best films, see it as soon as possible (you know there's gonna be assholes out there ruining the twist on social media), and we'll have a few far-more-interesting conversations after everyone's had a chance seen it.
Knives Out is in theaters now.