What we have here is a donut hole inside of another donut hole. And at the center of that donut is an excuse to watch Knives Out again—or for the first time if you were unfortunate enough to miss it in theaters. Indeed, Rian Johnson’s sleeper hit from 2019’s holiday season is about to make its debut on a non-VOD streaming service, with Knives Out slated to premiere on Amazon Prime on June 12.
In what was for this writer’s money the most entertaining movie of 2019, Knives Out was Johnson’s loving throwback to the whodunit murder mysteries of Agatha Christie and other early 20th century writers. With an all-star cast of suspects and larger-than-life characters, the film plunges viewers into the fractured family life of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a wildly successful murder mystery novelist with entitled children and grandchildren of varying ingratitude. Despite living in a home that a detective would later describe as “a Clue board,” Harlan doesn’t see the danger in spending his 80th birthday by burning bridges with all his children and descendants. The next morning, he is found dead in his study.
What follows is both a satirical deconstruction and loving homage of the classic murder mystery tropes, as well as a sly blending of them with the more nefarious thriller elements of Alfred Hitchcock or Patricia Highsmith. It also features deceptively layered critiques about privilege as the family is viewed through the lens of Marta (Ana de Armas in a star making role), Harlan’s personal nurse who is treated like “one of the family” (and the help) by the rest of the family.
With a cast that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, and more, it’s a real ensemble piece tied together by a supremely hammy Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, “The Last of the Gentlemen Sleuths.” Craig’s Southern fried drawl is intentionally questionable, but the film’s airtight script is not. In fact, it earned Johnson his first Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
A satisfying follow-up project for Johnson after his excellent but controversial Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Knives Out was so winningly received that rather than spend more time in the galaxy far, far away, Johnson has already re-upped for another Benoit Blanc mystery alongside Craig. Beginning work on the sequel’s screenplay as early as last February, Johnson previously had hopes of shooting the film as early as this fall. Given the current state of the world, that seems highly unlikely, but we’ll be happy to see more of Johnson and Craig’s “CSI: KFC” whenever it comes about.