Review: Knives Out is a blade of glory for Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson’s take on Star Wars proved controversial – but his whodunit Knives Out deserves universal acclaim, says Simon Brew

One of the current trends in the movies is ‘immersive’ cinema. You may know the drill. You get the likes of 4DX, where you’re sat in a chair, moved around and have water thrown at you. Or there’s Secret Cinema, where the setting and feel of the film in question is recreated, drinks available at an extra charge.

But for those of us of a more relaxed disposition, I may now patent the idea of a Knives Out winter knitwear screening. The idea? You just sit there in a cosy jumper or cardy, and marvel at some of Hollywood’s finest and their ability to keep out the cold.

There is, after all, a lot of knitwear in writer/director Rian Johnson’s delightfully enjoyable new movie, the latest in a growing resurgence of Hollywood whodunits. In this one, it’s Christopher Plummer’s Harlan Thrombey who meets his maker (and not of hypothermia, either), leaving those behind as prime suspects, each with their eye on his extensive, lucrative estate.

Could it be Chris Evans’ Ransom? Jamie Lee Curtis’ Linda? Michael Shannon’s – in by far the least impressive woollies – Walt? Heck, there’s a queue of suspects: Ana de Armas, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Frank Oz? Personally, wouldn’t trust any of ’em.

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And as it turns out, there’s only one man who can get to the bottom of it all. Splendidly, that’s Daniel Craig, taking one part of his leftfield turn in Logan Lucky, another bit of Inspector Clouseau and directing the whole into Benoit Blanc. It’s – not said lightly – the most gleeful and entertaining work that Craig has committed to film, and with Johnson’s script steeped in a love for Agatha Christie but with a 15-certificate twist, he’s got the space to have fun.

Bluntly: he does. And whilst occasionally you get a film where it looks like the cast were having a great time at the expense of the audience, in Knives Out everyone’s invited. It works as a whodunit, it works as a light, entertaining night out, it works as an excuse to watch an excellent ensemble let loose.

If there’s a slight bother with it, and it’s a minor one, it’s pretty long for what it’s doing. You get a very, very good 130-minute film for your money, but I do wonder if there’s an even sharper 120-minute cut of it. Either way, it’s hard to grumble with what you get: a big Hollywood movie with not a cape or a spaceship in sight. Instead, you get wool, and lots of it.

Hats off to Rian Johnson here. If the old adage about your previous movie being a determinant as to what your next will be, he’s reacted superbly to the fan ‘debate’ over Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and used the clout that bought him to get Knives Out through the Hollywood system. I hope he’ll be guest of honour at the first knit-a-long screening.

Knives Out is in cinemas now