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– by Fox Troilo

Knives Out is the story of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a wealthy patriarch going on in years. During the culmination of the elder Thrombey’s birthday party, the eccentric man is found dead under incredibly suspicious circumstances. Enter Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). Calm and cool in demeanor, Blanc is the detective assigned to the case and he immediately smells foul play after uncovering that several guests at the party, including friends, colleagues, and confidants, could have benefited from having Old Man Thrombey in the ground. Through sleuthing and deduction Blanc attempts to piece together what actually happened that night.

What works in Knives Out is the blend of suspense and comedy, elevated by the perfect mix of talent and execution. Writer/director Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) by his own admission set out to make a modern whodunnit and has succeeded fantastically. Knives Out demands that audiences hang on every word of his meticulously crafted script that mixes farce, erudition, and sarcasm in such a way that it may very well merit a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

RELATED: Rian Johnson’s Knives Out Set To Hit $22M-$25M In Opening Thanksgiving Weekend

But words on a page only get you so far. Fortunately, Johnson has assembled what may be one of the best ensemble casts ever, and what’s even better is that he refuses to waste them. Within 130 minutes Johnson somehow finds a way to give depth and meaning to every single suspect, and each actor appears to be in a delightful competition to outdo their peers in terms of chewing scenery at this all-you-can-eat buffet of wit. It’s nearly impossible to name an MVP (perhaps it’s Craig’s Blanc as the ringleader of this circus), but watching Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, and Toni Collette, verbally spar is a treat not to be missed.

One may note that this review hasn’t yet said a word about the execution (sorry) of the plot’s central mystery, so here are but a few: it is gripping, suspenseful, and fantastically satisfying.

Patrons who don’t enjoy twisty, character-driven mysteries may not enjoy Knives Out as much as others. For individuals who don’t relish tense situations and scenarios, Knives Out might not be your cup of afternoon tea, as the proceedings are incredibly taut. And while it would be hard to categorize the film as particularly “scary,” filmmaker Johnson knows exactly how to keep watchers on the edges of their seats.

Knives Out is a beacon for all those who have (rightfully) declared the murder-mystery genre dead. Johnson has masterfully concocted a wholly original yarn that is entertaining through every single minute thanks to tight dialogue, colorful characters, and fantastic directing. For those yearning for an engaging, entertaining puzzle-ride, Knives Out is not to be missed.

Recommended if you enjoyed: Clue, Gosford Park, Murder on the Orient Express

FINAL GRADE: A

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Fox serves as an entertainment journalist in the Washington, D.C. When not covering cinematic news for LRM, he critiques films as a member of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Fox also has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Strategy from Indiana University Bloomington.