Certain fictional mansions exist only so their owners can mysteriously die in them. The gothic revival abode of famous novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is one of them. All brick turrets and spindly spires on the outside, all dark wood and winding staircases on the inside, it’s a perfect place to throw a party—especially one in which all the suspects in a death are gathered at the request of law enforcement.
The family Harlan leaves behind is a motley collection of the idiosyncratic products of his wealth: daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her husband Richard (Don Johnson); Linda and Richard’s hot, aggressive, disappointing son Ransom (Chris Evans); Harlan’s son Walt (Michael Shannon) and his wife Donna (Riki Lindhome) and their son Jacob (Jaeden Martell); widowed daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette) and her daughter Meg (Katherine Langford); and the mysterious Greatnana (K Callan), always watching from the corner. There’s also Harlan’s faithful nurse Marta (Ana de Armas), perhaps the only person Harlan truly liked and trusted.
A police detective (LaKeith Stanfield) and his helpful right hand (Noah Segan) have gathered everyone for interviews—and accompanying them is Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), a southern detective so thickly accented that he’s compared to Colonel Sanders. Why Blanc is there at all is one of many things I would not dare reveal, as this film is not a trick or a postmodern deconstruction of a genre, but is instead an actual old-fashioned whodunit that will eventually tell you whodunit and why, precisely as it should.
If it sounds like a very big cast full of potentially very big performances, please know it is one. With the exception of de Armas and perhaps Evans, everyone in the film is working in marvelous broad strokes, drawing these characters as types but not retreads. From Collette’s goofy lifestyle influencer to Shannon’s stone-faced and resentment-driven grump, they’re all perfectly cast. And that’s before you get to Jamie Lee Curtis, resplendent in Linda’s luscious, vibrant, real-estate-peddling pantsuits, with round glasses and a cap of perfectly kept, snow-white hair. The work of assembling this group is a credit to casting director Mary Vernieu, and a reminder of what an art it is to find the right people for the right parts.