Knives Out was the best movie I saw in 2019.
To borrow a line from Red Dead Redemption 2, “The competition ain’t too fierce.” I think this past year saw us go to the theater less than any other. I don’t mean to diminish the movie’s excellence with this, though—it’s terrific, and I would think so if I saw eight or eighty movies last year.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson (probably best known for The Last Jedi, which everyone has An Opinion on), Knives Out is a throwback to the murder mysteries of yesteryear. Private detective Benoit Blanc (a scenery-devouring, Southern-drawl-speaking Daniel Craig) is summoned to a mansion to investigate the death of famed mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (the always-terrific Christopher Plummer). It’s the cast of characters Blanc meets there which makes the movie.
We learn of old Harlan’s demise as the movie opens, though it takes some time to encounter all the suspects, many of whom are the writer’s relatives. You’ll see a lot of familiar faces (Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Colette, Chris Evans, and more), and while some probably don’t get enough screen time, all of them are good. They look like they’re enjoying themselves, and they’re in on the fact this is supposed to be a comedy.
We also meet Marta (Ana de Armas, a delight), Harlan’s nurse and the last person to see him alive. She has a quirk that she can’t lie without vomiting. It seems random, and it is, but you know it’s going to matter for more than laughs before the movie’s over, and it does. The Thrombey family seemingly likes her, but after their patriarch’s death, they all try to pull one over on Ana, including using her mother’s immigration status against her.
At its heart, though, this is a mystery, and we get plenty of sleuthing. There’s not a lot of action, but the characters and the terrific dialogue make up for it. Blanc isn’t as smart or perceptive as Hercule Poirot, the character upon which he’s obviously and unabashedly based, but he navigates the investigation pretty well.
This is a movie you’ll want to pay attention to. Lines and details you learn earlier will prove important at the end. I figured out who the killer was—it becomes pretty apparent by the midpoint if you’ve ever seen a movie before—though I missed a detail or two along the way. I thought a couple small things around the demise of Harlan were questionable, but those are minor nitpicks of a very enjoyable film.
If you like mysteries, humor, and character-driven stories, Knives Out has all three. I highly recommend it.