TIFF review: Knives Out

Rian Johnson's star-studded whodunnit celebrates the subgenre and also slyly deconstructs it

KNIVES OUT SPEC D: Rian Johnson. U.S. 130 min. Sep 8, 11 am, Elgin. Rating: NNNN

Kenneth Branagh’s Murder On The Orient Express was pleasant enough, but it’s been a very long time since we’ve had a truly great whodunit, and writer/director Johnson is here to fix that.

His delightfully arch entry in the overstuffed all-star mystery subgenre is a celebration of the form that also slyly deconstructs it, much as he did with hard-boiled noir in Brick, caper pictures in The Brothers Bloom, time-travel thrillers in Looper and even Star Wars movies with The Last Jedi.

Wealthy mystery author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is dead, apparently by his own hand. A handful of detectives (Daniel Craig, Lakeith Stanfield, Noah Segan) are interviewing his family and staff – played by the likes of K Callan, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ana De Armas, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Riki Lindholme and Michael Shannon – to make sure it really was suicide. 

Things get infernally complicated from there, in the best possible way, all of it with a political subtext that nimbly updates Agatha Christie’s issues with race and class for Trump’s America.

If someone offers to tell you what happens, punch them in the face and run away.

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