When “Star Wars – The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson announced his next project, a classic country house “whodunit” murder mystery with a star studded cast, many thought the “force” had warped his judgment.
Translating a stage-bound fusty and worn out genre into cinematic cat nip for millennial’s was going to be a tall order, a “Mousetrap” with no cheese.
Whilst no classic, this somehow manages to work and proves a whole lot of fun, proving a welcome and comfortable distraction in these troubled (CoVid-19) times.
“Harlan Thrombey” (Christopher Plummer) is a best selling crime novelist living in a cliched Gothic mansion, scribbling away in his garret, cared for by his young foreign born care assistant “Marta Cabrera” (Ana de Armas).
Any wealthy crime author needs a large extended family, who ideally for plot purposes, all despise him for differing reasons. This provides a wealth of plausible motivations and red herrings to explore upon his untimely demise.
No plot spoilers here, but Thrombey senior is not long for this world. However, Plummer gets further screen-time due to the obligatory flashback sequences and repeat viewings, de rigueur for this genre.
The family and partners are played by an array of Hollywood talent, “Walt” (Michael Shannon), “Joni” (Toni Collette), Richard (Don Johnson) “Ransom” (Chris Evans) and “Linda” (Jamie Lee Curtis).
“Meg” (Katherine Langford) and “Jacob” (Jaeden Martell) round out the younger members of the cast list.
No murder mystery is complete without an eccentric but brilliant private detective. Daniel Craig fills the role of “Benoit Blanc”, complete with a heavy Southern accent, further extending his post Bond range.
The flatfooted police representatives are provided by LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Segan, essentially only included to indicate how brilliant Benoit is by comparison.
It’s clear the whole cast are having fun, with the story providing sufficient twists and turns to keep most of us guessing to the end, or is it?
Craig anchors the film with a larger than life, almost comedic turn with an accent inviting the family to underestimate him at every turn. With phrases like “The game is afoot. Eh, Watson?” and “I suspect foul play”, the movie is eminently quotable and will launch a thousand meme’s.
The whole premise is of course, as creaky as the house itself and the screenplay lacks the moral shades of grey so beloved of modern series. Some might guess “who did it” from the start but arguably the journey is more important than the destination. Apart from the occasional shock swear word from clean living “Captain America”, the film is largely family friendly.
On paper this should never work, however due to a inbuilt post ironic vibe and ruthless self-awareness, this film against all odds hits a home run. “Agatha Christie” for the millennial generation if you will, with a tongue firmly planted in it’s cheek.
Good entertainment, which bests the recent “Murder on The Orient Express” by being more self aware & contemporary.
Recommended and with “Knives Out 2” already in development, “Benoit Blanc” will be back.
Just watched this, was a little slow to start but engaged me to watch till the end and enjoyed it.
What a cast!!
Toni Collette, completely unrecognisable yet I knew it was someone I knew?? Same for Don Johnson, what a shift in appearance from Miami Vice.
……..and yeah just like an Agatha Christie – Who Done it!!