Death By Flamboyance
I’ve never been to Disney’s Magic Kingdom, but I am of the belief that there’s no point going to the park unless you are willing to jump on board the rides. And stepping up like a true entertainment magician that was Walt Disney himself, we have Rian Johnson’s lavish and bedazzling new brain roller coaster thrill ride film ‘Knives Out’ (2019), which is hands down, and up in the air again, is one of the absolute best and most entertaining movies of 2019, and well beyond.
Set on the grounds of what looks like the twin of the Magic Kingdom’s The Haunted Mansion, and soundtracked to the sumptuous velvet score of Nathan Johnson, all the classic troupes of decades of Whodunnit movies are respectfully observed and represented, but like that moment in The Wizard of Oz where everything turns to colour, it becomes a full spectrum of awe, wonder and richness that at times is breathtaking in it’s complicity, bravado, whimsy and giddy folly.
All the traditional ingredients are prepared, washed Agatha Christie, diced Hitchcock and thrown into the Rian Scriptor Blender, with lashings of potent liqour fuelled ideas, as the objective isn’t just a token nod to bygone age, it’s a resplendent and loving total refurbishment of an entire genre by a master craftsman into a Gordian Knot soup of mesmerising complexity made by Heston Blumenthal.
Ideally you will attend this country retreat to skullduggery, death and deception with knowing little to nothing about it, as the more ill prepared you are for it, the more there is to enjoy. Just arrive hungry, and ready to gorge on sumptuous delights.
There has been a deep tragedy, with the suicide of a renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), who seemingly has through the years of creating many books blood soaked in shrewd villainy, ended up living and dying in one of these very worlds himself, and only then to have his ghost seemingly write the script to the very movie we are watching.
The death is clearly straight forward, but then that would be the end of the movie. Also, someone has decided to employ the famous investigative detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig doing his best accent since Logan Lucky), a gentleman of vertiginous repute hailing from the Southern states who operates with perseverance and panache. Together with the police partnership of Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan), this intrepid Eh? Team are on case of something they aren’t actually sure is real, but it must be solved nonetheless.
As we slowly begin to met all the members of the family, who each one reads an increasingly insidious character from one of their father’s books. The more they say, the more delightfully scurrilous and despicable they are. This is one of the many highlights of the film in that the family members are eccentricity turned up to 13, as Don Johson, Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans and Michael Shannon effectively have the times of their lives playing these selfish entitled brats, who are only standing on the shoulders of giants to push their dad into the grave quicker. With very actor cutting straight through with razor sharp accents, acrimonious nuances, deft twitches and sublime devious glints, giddy hiccups of malevolence, it’s only the staff Fran (Edi Patterson) and home help nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) who show any modicum of humanity in this snakepit.
It’s the sublime interactions between all the characters, where we think we are making progress on the case, if there is actually a case, that emphasises the sheer vibrancy of the plot and the very words that are being said by this ridiculously talented ensemble cast in an eye watering onion layered hysterically funny script, so laser sharp it feels like you’re having dull entertainment cataracts removed and are properly seeing for the first time, in a long time. They are a whooping joy to behold as each dastardly player gives their finest Sunday Best performance to sway eyes away from any guilt they may have. And it all leads to a constant dizzying spin of fun ride where we know we are having fun, but nothing is in focus, and we’ve no idea where it is going.
With so much family pestilence slithering about it is the sincere human warmth of Marta who keeps us grounded, as she really is the only ‘normal’ character in a truly extraordinary house of familial horrors. It has to be said that is a cast of outstanding performances, it is Ana de Armas who skilfully waltzes through the many facets of being a decent human being in a corrupt world. There’s the added hilarious bonus that Marta has a nervous ‘tick’ that makes it impossible for her to tell lies, and in a kingdom of lies, she shines all the brighter for it, and leaves her mark in more ways than one.
Lavish and rapturously enjoyable from beginning to end, if you go in with a pure wanton sense of play, you just might end up having one of the best thrill rides of the year.
10/10 ‘Knives Out’ is out now.