Knives Out: Rian Johnson Out Cozies Agatha Christie!

Rian Johnson’s follow up to Star Wars: The Last Jedi finds him working new angles on the classic cozy mystery subgenre.

What You Need to Know: If you love cozy mysteries of the type popularized by Agatha Christie, then you will love Knives Out.

The morning after his 85th birthday dinner, best-selling author and patriarch of the Thrombey clan, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer, Remember, All the Money in the World), dead – apparently by suicide.

Knives Out – Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield), Trooper elliott (Noah Segan) and Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) – Photo by Claire Folger/Courtesy of Lionsgate.

The police – Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield, Atlanta, Death Note) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) – are questioning everyone but seem convinced this is as open and shut as it gets.

Enter Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, Logan Lucky, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) – a laid back fellow with a lazy southern drawl in a tweed suit.

Blanc has reason to suspect foul play – and he has plenty to work with. The only person who seems entirely unlikely to have done the deed is Harlan’s nurse, Marta Cabrera (War dogs, Blade Runner 2049) – a young woman who is both a genuinely decent human being and seriously indisposed by the thought of lying.

Knives Out – Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) – Photo by Claire Folger/Courtesy of Lionsgate.

However, with almost an entire family of suspects (Katherine Langford’s Meg is pretty much the only other Thrombey who seems unlikely) Blanc’s work is cut out for him.

The all-star cast – Don Johnson (Richard Drysdale), Jamie Lee Curtis (Linda Drysdale, Richard’s wife), Toni Collette (Joni Thrombey), Chris Evans (Ransom Drysdale – Richard and Linda’s son), Michael Shannon (Walter Thrombey) and Riki Lindholme (Donna Thrombey) – and all the supporting players seem to be having a helluva lot of fun with this one twist after another exercise in coziness.

It doesn’t hurt that it seems that everyone in the family had reason to kill Harlan – even before a major revelation that turns everything we’ve seen to that point on its head.

Knives Out – Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) – Photo by Claire Folger/Courtesy of Lionsgate.

Johnson (who also wrote the script) directs with panache – he knows when to let the camera sit and watch the characters expose their true selves and when to pan, zoom or cut to provide moments of explosive revelation or quiet contemplation.

Throughout, Johnson keeps things moving at enough of a pace that we might miss any continuity errors, but insofar as the story goes, I certainly didn’t see any while watching – nor the rest of the day afterword.

In short, Johnson seems to have created a perfect cozy mystery while he was busy satirising the genre.

Final Grade: A+

Featured Photo: Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson), Walter Thrombey (Michael Shannon), and Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell) – Photo by claire Folger/Courtesy of Lionsgate.