'Knives Out' Review: Rian Johnson's Star-Studded Whodunit Is Hilarious, Clever And Endlessly Entertaining

The game's afoot and everyone's a suspect in Knives Out, Rian Johnson's deliriously funny whodunit. It's the most fun you'll ever have trying to solve a murder. Gathering together a killer cast of movie stars and character actors, Johnson has crafted a film that's both a loving homage to locked room mysteries and a giddy, laugh-out-loud funny comedy that keeps pulling the rug out from under you just when you think you've found your footing. It's a total blast.

Following his 85th birthday party, ludicrously wealthy mystery writer Harlan Thrombrey (Christopher Plummer) turns up dead. The staging suggests suicide, and the local cops – played by Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan, who deserve their own spin-off movie – are happy to accept that conclusion. But brilliant private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) isn't so sure. He suspects foul play, and there are certainly a wealth of suspects residing in Thrombrey's family.

There's his powerful, imposing daughter Linda Drysdale-Thrombrey (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her rude husband Richard (Don Johnson). Then there's Thrombrey's guru daughter Joni (Toni Collette, funny as hell), who runs a self-help empire clearly modeled on Gwyenth Paltrow's GOOP. Thrombrey's youngest son, the short-tempered Walt (Michael Shannon) could be the guilty party, too. Or maybe it's Linda and Richard's vulgar son Ransom (Chris Evans), the black sheep of the family.

As Blanc digs into the case, nothing is as it seems. He's aided, to a fashion, by Marta (Ana de Armas), Thrombrey's longtime nurse and friend. The old man and his nurse were very close, and Blanc can tell right away that Marta is very kind – which is more than can be said for the rest of the Thrombrey family. He recruits her to be the Watson to his Sherlock Holmes, and the clues begin to pile up.

To say any more would do Knives Out a disservice, as Johnson's script is loaded with more twists and turns than a roller coaster. One scene after the next reveals something new, and the reveals never feel cheap or sudden. The writer-director has meticulously crafted things so that even the most ludicrous of twists ends up seeming pretty damn plausible.

As fun as the mystery is, the real treat of Knives Out is watching this incredible cast ham it up and have a clearly great time doing it. Everyone here gets their moments to shine, with Noah Sagan perhaps being the biggest breakout and getting the most laughs as he acts up against these heavy-hitters. Evans is also a hoot as the black sheep Ransom – the former Captain America manages to garner huge guffaws by simply eating cookies. That's talent, folks.

But Knives Out truly belongs to two people. The first is Craig's Blanc, who hangs in the background for a good chunk of the film, but always makes his presence known. Adopting a Southern drawl and prone to singing to himself and spouting out confusing analogies about donuts and donut holes, this is one of the most enjoyable characters Craig has ever played, and here's hoping he starts doing more and more comedy now that his Bond days are drawing to a close.

The other major player is de Armas's Marta, who is the heart and soul of the film. Sweet, charming, and adept at some great physical comedy, de Armas is a treat to watch, and since her character is the most likable individual in the story, it's easy to root for her. Watching her and Craig bounce off each other is a delight from beginning to end.

As is the film itself. At a tight 130 minutes, there's no fat on Knives Out. It jumps right into the action, and never lets up, whisking us along for a madcap experience that blends screwball comedy, slapstick, dark humor, suspense, and really stylish fashion (dig those tweed suits Craig wears). Johnson's assured direction – quick cuts, characters bathed in shadow, and an ability to truly let a punchline land – is coupled with Steve Yedlin's inky, foggy, gorgeous cinematography, adding visual flair to an already enjoyable experience. I left the theater feeling absolutely giddy, and eager to see it again as soon as possible. Bet on it: Knives Out is one of the year's most entertaining films.

/Film Rating: 9.5 out of 10