Welcome to the 2019 CIRCUIT CONSIDERATIONS series. Highlighting the very best in film, acting, and technical achievements for the past 12 months that awards voters may need help remembering. Each day a different writer will make their plea for a specific film in a respective category. If you miss one, click the tag “Circuit Considerations 2019,” and if you have some suggestions, include them in the comments below!
Rian Johnson’s (“Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi”, “Looper”) clever and chic “Knives Out” is a modern masterpiece in the whodunit genre. The film’s success is thanks in large part to its intricate script, which is both full of wriggling plot twists and a deeply polished sense of humor. Johnson turns the screws in the thriller while introducing one eccentric member of the eclectic Thrombey family after another. The incredible cast (which includes Ana de Armas, Christopher Plummer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, LaKeith Stanfield, Chris Evans, and Toni Collette) accentuates Johnson’s perfect blend of tension and humor. This allows “Knives Out” to leave the audience off-balance until the very end.
But Johnson’s screenplay wasn’t just birthed overnight. The film has been a passion project for the writer/director for over ten years. Johnson has admitted to having a bit of an obsession with the genre, dating back to his childhood love for the novels of Agatha Christie. Christie’s main protagonist, Hercule Poirot, is indeed the inspiration for the enigmatic and peculiar detective Benoit Blanc (Craig).
Aside from being chock-full of Hitchcockian mystery tropes and early-Hollywood noir, there are heavy themes of class examination portrayed through the film’s lead character, Marta (de Armas). This motif is significant and well-timed, culminating in a big middle-finger to the Trump administration’s current handling of illegal immigrants. Marta’s character arc is the most gratifying as a result.
With “Knives Out,” Johnson resurrects the murder-mystery archetype, if not wholly reinvents it. The story is a nostalgic throwback to star-studded mysteries like “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), “The Mirror Crack’d” (1980), and (perhaps most notably) “Clue” (1985). And while this is not an entirely new method of storytelling, it is certainly an ambitious breath of fresh air that will hopefully knock the dust off one of the more entertaining genres in cinema. It is a screenplay not only worthy of a nomination, but one that deserves to take home the Oscar.