Thursday, January 2, 2020

Knives Out

Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is a classic whodunit of the Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express variety. You have your cast of suspicious characters, all possessing, nefarious and incriminating motives. In this case the mystery takes place in a house rather than a train. The fact that the corpse discovered happens to be a mystery writer, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) who's become fabulously rich due to his plots adds another dimension. You need a savvy detective in this genre and one with some easily identifiable traits. In this case Daniel Craig of James Bond fame plays the part of Benoit Blanc, who speaks with a big time Southern drawl. Jamie Lee Curtis, plays Linda Drysdale, Thrombley's eldest daughter and and yes suspect and a beleaguered one at that. Maria Cabrera (Ana de Armas), the fall guy or girl is the one figure of modest means and it looks like she’s going to take the rap for a crime she didn’t commit, even by way of accident. Knives Out is pure genre entertainment whose pleasure derives from the venerable history of murder and mayhem. Parsing the plot is a little like chess with all its famous moves and plays. It’s all derivative and one of the pleasures comes from seeing which one (s) are being employed and in what combination. Yet on another level the experience of seeing a movie like Knives Out is the reverse of getting into the seat of a self-driving car. Here from the very beginning, you take the wheel. You’re presented with a problem that has to be solved. And even if you aren't right in your analysis, there’s the pleasure of justice and poetic justice being served as the strands of plot (and it's a very ingenious one in this case) are woven together to a climax.

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