Well, today I’m going to talk about something I don’t normally do on this blog… talk about a modern, theatrically released movie that doesn’t happen to be an adaptation of an existing mystery franchise. That said, it does have a definite tie to Cozies – it was actually the expressed intent of Rian Johnson, Director/Producer/Writer of Knives Out to produce “an old fashioned murder mystery. Like an Agatha Christie, I love her!” Well, I certainly agree with that sentiment! And I was incredibly pleasantly surprised to find that Johnson’s 2019 movie actually felt like a modernization of an Agatha Christie… and it’s better than most of those!
To start off with, the plot is pure classic mystery. When wealthy, eccentric, cantankerous mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey (played by Christopher Plummer) is found dead after his 85th birthday party, it seems like a clear-cut case of suicide. However, there’s one thing that keeps the police from just signing it off as suicide – Benoit Blanc (played by Daniel Craig), a renowned private investigator. Benoit Blanc, the so-called “last of the gentlemen sleuths”, has been hired to look into the death. I don’t want to go too far into the plot beyond that, as the movie is far too new for spoilers… I can’t even tell you the other classic mystery that that this movie reminds me of, as I want it to be a surprise!
One thing I can talk about more is the cast, and I can’t say enough good things. As already mentioned, Christopher Plummer does an excellent job as Harlan Thrombey, as well as Daniel Craig, who plays the role of “southern fried detective” Benoit Blanc alternately as mysterious, ridiculous, or insightful, as the moment requires. Equally impressive were many of the other people I would consider “big names” of the cast, like Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays Thrombey’s dry, highly successful daughter Linda. But I was also surprised by many of the other actors and actresses, who are a bit too young for me to be as familiar with them (I am more of a “classic movies fan” than a “modern movie-goer”) such as Ana de Armas (playing the on-site nurse and confidante for Harlan Thrombey), Michael Shannon (as Harlan’s son and head of Harlan’s publishing house), Toni Collette (playing Harlan’s slightly hippy-dippy daughter Joni), and Chris Evans (playing a semi-estranged grandson). I need to stop here with the list, because, honestly, the entire cast does such an excellent job that it would just turn into a copy of the closing credits!
Note that there are a few details that some more sensitive readers should be warned of. First, it isn’t entirely bloodless. Let’s face it – when you stab someone, there’s blood, and while there aren’t exactly buckets of it in this mystery, there are a few moments that might put off squeamish viewers. Likewise, one character does have a particular tell when she lies – violent vomiting, which in practice I personally found more off-putting than the blood. Depending on how seriously you view swearing, there are a few instances of it here – though personally, I wasn’t bothered by either the frequency or severity. And as I said earlier, I’ve seen more extreme examples of most of this in actual modern Christie adaptations than here. There are a few depictions of drug use, though nothing particularly strong. There are also some brief political discussions.
This would normally be a great moment to say “They don’t make ’em like this any more”… except, they did. They just made this one in 2019, and there’s word that there’s a follow-up starring Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc already in the works. I’m certainly looking forward to it, and aside from those who are particularly sensitive to the above issues in their Cozies, I heartily recommend it.
PS: At least as of the time of this posting, Knives Out is available on Amazon Prime streaming.