With echoes of the 1985 cult classic Clue, Knives Out provides the perfect balance of foreboding and well-executed humor which works for me on so many levels.
Writer-director Rian Johnson (yeah, that dude) takes the setting of an isolated mansion and really makes it a prominent character in the story. When needed, the universe expands, but never feels jarring. Even if it is temporary, many films with a primary single setting lose their audience when expanding outside that main set piece. Kudos to the production team for preventing that from happening here.
In terms of the actual visual style, the internal and external environs are slightly ‘overcast’ but not muted. Where vibrancy is needed, the cinematographer and set design allows the colors to jump off the screen.
Great Ensemble Cast
In Hollywood ensemble casts are often only that in name. What I mean by this is that you have a couple of central figures surrounded by several secondary characters.
In this film I did not get that sense at all. Each member of the cast is an essential part of the narrative. And the results (a finely tuned “dance of acting”) are there on the screen. It goes without saying (but I will) that when the story calls for individuals to jump to the fore, they did so without feeling intrusive.
As it pertains to the performances, my favorite thing is that in the context of the scenes, all the actors are playing it straight in the midst of some utterly ridiculous turns in the plot. The result is a heightened sense of comedy.
As the Plot(s) Turn
Speaking of plot turns, I can’t say that many of them were not wholly unexpected. However, it is the various methods of revealing said plot twists that were clever and a joy to watch.
At key points in the film, Johnson relies on an interplay with time. The film moves seamlessly between past and present events as it pushes the story forward. Ultimately, when the mystery at the center is revealed, you can go back and it all makes sense.
An Overall Crowd-Pleaser
Often, I think as a general public, we let the “critical response” of a film, influence our response to it. What this does, unfortunately, is make us forget why many of us still go to the movies. A quality film that also does the business of entertaining us simply ‘because’ is more than worth the price of admission.
And in a world where many movie goers crave and demand fun, original stories, Knives Out (which opens today) delivers the goods and is a delightful, cinematic treat.