‘Knives Out’: Daniel Craig is a delight in Rian Johnson’s comic crime caper

Rian Johnson‘s new film “Knives Out” is being hailed by critics for making merry with the murder mystery genre. After the family patriarch (Christopher Plummer) is murdered, suspicion falls on his extended family (Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, Michael Shannon). A detective (Daniel Craig) arrives to find the killer. After well-received screenings at the Toronto and London film festivals, the film was released by Lionsgate on Nov. 27 and looks like it will be a big holiday hit.

Among those reviewers praising the picture was Olly Richards (NME) who notes that “Johnson sticks two fingers up to his critics via a deliciously clever murder-mystery.” He describes the film as “a daft, but also very clever, murder-mystery, packed with big stars, big laughs and – from Daniel Craig in particular – some very big acting.” And, he says, “Johnson’s control of so many characters and so many plot twists is extremely impressive, even more so for being so unshowy. He gets out of the film’s way and lets his story go haring off in all sorts of directions until it winds up at an ending that makes sense of a whole lot of madness that precedes it. And his script is as cool and oomphy as a well-made martini.

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Brian Tallerico (Roger Ebert) was equally enthusiastic: “This is one of the most purely entertaining films in years. It is the work of a cinematic magician, one who keeps you so focused on what the left hand is doing that you miss the right.” He observes that he film is “not just a wildly fun mystery to unravel but a scathing bit of social commentary about where America is in 2019. Great mystery writers throughout history have dissected class in ways that were palatable to audiences looking for escapism, and Johnson is clearly doing that here too, using a wonderfully entertaining mystery structure that would make Agatha Christie smile. Directing a wildly charismatic cast who are all-in on what he’s doing, Johnson confidently stays a step or two ahead of his audience, leaving them breathless but satisfied at the end.”

Benjamin Lee (The Guardian) regards the film “as a delicious challenge to well-trained armchair detectives and there’s a dizzying joy in watching Johnson and his cast play with the rules, leaving us in the dark to figure out where it’s all going.” He notes, “everyone in the cast is having a ball and it’s especially fun to see actors such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Craig, Toni Collette and Chris Evans show off their comic prowess, given their mostly dramatic roles of late.” Lee concludes, “it’s such a rare pleasure to see a director so in love with a genre without slipping into Tarantinoesque fanboy indulgence, remembering his audience is bigger than himself and also that his film requires both head and heart.”

SEE Toni Collette movies: 12 greatest films, ranked worst to best, include ‘Hereditary,’ ‘The Sixth Sense,’ ‘Knives Out’

Alissa Wilkinson (Vox) calls it “a romping delight” and says the film is “confident and exciting, with performances that suggest a cast having the time of their lives on set. (It’s always nice to see Daniel Craig spring into antic electricity outside the confines of his brooding James Bond; as for Chris Evans, his post-Captain America life seems to suit him nicely.)” She regards “Knives Out” as a worthy tribute to Agatha Christie, a light but pointed rebuke, and a delectable time at the movies.”

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