I review “Knives Out”

I review “Knives Out” December 13, 2019

at America, which gave it a much more enthusiastic headline than I really think this movie warrants! Ah well.

The most unusual feature of “Knives Out”—the introduction of contemporary political tensions into a cheeky Agatha Christie homage—is also its least-satisfying element.

“Knives Out” tells the twisty tale of the mystery author Harlan Thrombey and his fractious family, who gather for the patriarch’s 85th birthday party—at the end of which Thrombey is found dead. Thrombey (his name is a cute tribute to the Choose Your Own Adventure series’ whodunnit, Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey?) lived in a country house made for murder, all secret passageways and artwork made of knives. An unknown employer has sent the legendary sleuth Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to find out whether Thrombey died by his own hand or by foul play. …

But Blanc is not the center of this mystery—or, as he puts it, the donut hole that fits this donut.

That role is played by Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), Thrombey’s nurse. Marta is the daughter of an undocumented immigrant, so any hint of her involvement in his death carries even higher stakes than the family members face. She is enigmatic at first but soon emerges as the one pure soul in a house of snakes.

And here we confront the movie’s weak spot: Marta’s strength.

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