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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Knives Out (2019) | Spoiler-Free

Knives Out Note: Thank you to my friend who paid for my ticket. Also, since this is spoiler-free, a lot of details are going to have to be kept vague, and that makes writing it a bit difficult.

It's been two years since The Last Jedi, so it's finally time for director Rian Johnson's followup! As someone who hated seeing the rift that movie created, I was really curious about a lot of aspects of his next movie and how they'd be received. Making things more interesting, personally, was this being Chris Evans's first post-Marvel movie and a taste of Daniel Craig's post-Bond career. Rest assured that all of them will continue to light up the screen for years to come. Still, Knives Out didn't quite deliver on all promises a modern, comedic, mystery movie should offer.

Knives Out is about the death of patriarch Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) on his birthday. Everybody is a suspect, and that includes a busy family tree and staff of the elaborately, beautifully decorated home. The house is even described in the movie as a Clue board by one of the detectives, and all the characters are well-defined, even if it's done in a clunky way.

Those are the main problems with the movie. With the house, it's well-designed and well-used, but it's not creatively captured onscreen. Something about Knives Out feels bare bones, and I didn't expect that from the guy who just received a reputation for going kinda crazy and going f**k it. That's the thing, I guess, he doesn't go crazy in visual ways, like trippy camera angles or weird editing. It's all in his script and plotting, but it feels like it's both underwritten and overwritten at the same time. 

Knives Out just has a very rough start with clunky dialogue and exposition. It really should've been assisted or substituted with some visual storytelling showing the audience the Thrombey family tree, or some of the potential suspects' motives, or something. Instead, the movie places the full burden of its success on the actors, their characters, and the circumstances of Harlan Thrombey's death. Luckily, everything does start to click when the investigation starts gaining traction, and the investigation is led by a jubilant, fun detective named Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). 

First, his southern accent comes out of nowhere. You're almost not sure what you're hearing in his opening lines, even though the words themselves are clear. The drawl earns him the glorious title in the movie of "CSI: KFC." A quick sidenote, KFC is getting into romance novels, comic books, and video games, so if they hear about this and run with it, it could be frighteningly beautiful. 

Anyway, piecing together the puzzle is where Johnson's strengths lie. He makes sure that every possibility is still plausible, and that means he can come up with scenarios that are just shy of impossible. And while he's doing that, he's encouraging the audience to do the same thing. I was coming up with my own theories, and I can definitely see fanfiction writers creating their own versions of events. Even better, video editors can do the same. If has their own alternative cut of the movie or script, or something inspired by it, I hope they share it with the world. Knives Out best strength is that, like Clue (the game and the movie), it encourages imagination, creativity, and critical thinking. On top of that, the movie has a decent-sized heart, too, shown through the characters Harlan Thrombey left the biggest impact on.

Two more minor complaints about the movie are that it does place itself in the current era with some light political references, so they might pull people out for a minute. The commentary is necessary but could've been more general too. The other complaint is that the movie has a chase scene that should've been better setup from the start. It's a small setup-payoff thing that someone like Johnson should've thought through a little more, considering how tight the rest of the movie seems.

Something about Knives Out just fell short for me visually. Something much more quirky seemed to be promised, but maybe that's just my own expectations. Instead, what we're given is a great mystery and the means to create great mysteries of our own, and that has to be commended.




SHAKA said...
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