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Movie Review: 'Knives Out' Turns The Genre Inside-Out

The moment Daniel Craig opened his mouth in Knives Out and let forth with the most ridiculous quasi-Southern accent, I thought, “my god, Daniel, what are you doing?” By the end of the movie, I wasn’t just on board, I was ready for a whole series starring his character, private detective Benoit Blanc.

I tell you this not to say Craig is THE reason to see Knives Out — the whole cast absolutely nails it, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, and it’s an unexpected emotional rollercoaster. Rather, I say it to let you know it’s highly unlikely you’re going to get through the movie without it completely getting its hooks into you — though why you’d even want to resist, I can’t imagine.

Knives Out is director Rian Johnson’s throwback to classic murder mysteries, as a multimillionaire author is found dead of an apparent suicide, and the police investigate each member of his family, along with the help of Blanc, who’s been hired by an unknown benefactor. Not surprisingly, the movie turns the genre inside-out, eventually becomes a whodunit within a whodunit, and we learn some things we wish weren’t true, and root for things we’re not used to rooting for.

What is surprising is how political the movie is. Some of this is overt, with the characters spouting pat right-and-left-wing talking points, but this is just window dressing for the real hard subtext, which lies with the specific narrative arc of one character, a stand-in for the larger story of a small but highly significant group of young people struggling with existential uncertainty in our country today.

This is a bit of a spoiler, but I’m so thankful this political subtext doesn’t end cynically, as it easily could have— instead, it’s hopeful. In fact, the moral of Knives Out is my very favorite movie lesson, the same one taught to us by the great cinematic hero, Babe the Gallant Pig: A kind and steady heart is sure to see you through.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.