The 1985 murder, mystery comedy ‘Clue’ based on the famous murder mystery board game Cluedo (or simply ‘Clue’ in N. America. I’m a Brit. We called the game Cluedo) was one of the films I adored watching while growing up. There was Star Wars, James Bond, Indiana Jones, The Goonies.. and then there was Clue. An ambitious film that featured THREE endings which was used to great effect to spotlight the possible Whodunit(s) of the murder that takes place. Very funny and very cleverly written, it brought to life the characters that were introduced in the game.
What Rian Johnson has done here with Knives Out is he has brought in the spark from said board game as well as employed influences from many great murder mystery stories, notably from Agatha Christie, and sprinkled them carefully into this story of a family celebrating the birthday of their elderly patriarch Harlan Thrombey – played wonderfully by Christopher Plummer. Then the inevitable crime is committed followed by the proverbial finger-pointing at the members of the Thrombey family.
Each character in this ensemble has a chance to shine on screen as they, together with the audience, wonder who the culprit is. None more so than Ana de Armas as the family nurse, ensuring Harlan regularly takes his medication, keeps him company and has therefore developed an almost father-daughter-like bond with him. Her show of care and concern to her employer is more than believable. You find yourself routing for her and hope she gets relief at the end of the ensuing madness. The members of the family are a peculiar bunch and are full of quirkiness, sass and in the case of Harlan’s grandson played gleefully by Chris Evans, downright douche-y. It’s obvious he wants to showcase what else he can do when not with his ‘team’ in the MCU and it’s delightful. What’s more of a treat is Daniel Craig as ‘famous private investigator’ Benoit Blanc.
Rian Johnson, clearly channeling Hercule Poirot here, has a field day in coaxing Craig to grip the audience as Blanc chews up the screen in almost every scene he’s in and to great effect. Such charisma, charm, humour and wit, he homes in on each aspect of the case to uncover what needs to be in order for the solution to be seen. Admittedly, this allows for reduced screen time for his co-law enforcement colleagues who he joins in trying to solve the case. They’re both played, at least, effectively by Lakeith Standfield (Det. Eliot) and Noah Segan (Trooper Wagner) with the latter sometimes garnering some of the film’s funny moments. Without giving too much away, the end result is a refreshing perspective on the well-known tropes of the murder mystery genre and it is indeed a welcome outcome. This was thoroughly enjoyable and I can’t wait to watch it again! Well done Mr. Johnson and the lush cast!