Writer/Director Rian Johnson’s follow-up film to Star Wars: The Last Jedi has released its first trailer. Knives Out is Johnson’s return to the mystery genre, which he took a post-modern swing at with his first film, Brick. In that movie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a high school version of a hard boiled P.I. In Knives Out, Daniel Craig is a southern gentleman sleuth who goes by the name of… I kid you not… Benoit Blanc.
(Just FYI, Benoit is a French name that means “the one who says the good” and Blanc is French for “white”. Basically, Benoit Blanc translates to “True Detective” so Johnson obviously hasn’t lost his touch for on-the-nose writing.)
Knives Out is Johnson’s take on the classic Agatha Christie “closed door”-style murder mystery, where a large group of suspects are trapped in a single location (typically a remote and isolated mansion) with a killer and must discover who that killer is before he/she strikes again. Examples of this from Christie’s work include stories like And Then There Were None and Ordeal By Innocence. More recently, Adam Sandler’s Netflix original film Murder Mystery lampooned this style of Agatha Christie whodunit, and another famous satirical example was the movie CLUE, based on the classic board game (which was based on Christie’s style of mysteries). Knives Out would appear to be a more serious post-modern take on the “whodunit” mystery genre, judging by the dialogue in the trailer.
The movie boasts an impressive cast of very talented actors. Big names like Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, and Christopher Plummer are all headliners of the ensemble cast. Frank Oz (the voice of Yoda) is also listed as having a role in the movie. In addition, the film stars some lesser-known up-and-coming actors such as Ana de Armas, who some might recognize as the sexy hologram girlfriend from Blade Runner 2049, Katherine Langford from 13 Reasons Why, and Lakeith Stanfield from Get Out and Death Note. And, of course, you have Daniel Craig as the film’s central sleuth (doing a terrible southern accent, by the way).
Here’s the film’s official synopsis via Lionsgate:
Acclaimed writer and director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper, The Last Jedi) pays tribute to mystery mastermind Agatha Christie in KNIVES OUT, a fun, modern-day murder mystery where everyone is a suspect. When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death. With an all-star ensemble cast including Chris Evans, Ana De Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford and Jaeden Martell, KNIVES OUT is a witty and stylish whodunit guaranteed to keep audiences guessing until the very end.
It’s interesting to note that Knives Out has already made a profit through foreign pre-sales based on its casting alone. The film’s budget is estimated to be somewhere in the $40 million range (though, there is no actual real budget figure available at the moment, so that number could be off) so Lionsgate was already able to mitigate their risk by selling the foreign rights to the film before its release. This means that any money Knives Out makes at the box office is likely to be pure profit, ensuring the film is considered a “success” no matter what numbers the film ultimately does.
The film is scheduled to be released after Thanksgiving 2019, it’s official date being November 27th. It will be facing competition from Frozen 2, the Charlie’s Angels reboot, and The Shining follow-up Doctor Sleep. However, there is no direct competition being released that weekend and is likely to be considered “counter-programming” for adult cinema-goers against the kid-friendly Frozen sequel, which is sure to dominate the Thanksgiving box office.
The REAL interesting thing here is that Knives Out will be hitting theaters mere weeks before the final installment of Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy, The Rise Of Skywalker, debuts. Though Knives Out isn’t expected to do anywhere near the type of numbers a Star Wars movie will, it shall be interesting to see if it serves to remind disaffected Star Wars fans about their dislike of The Last Jedi and if that will affect The Rise Of Skywalker’s box office at all. I suppose time will tell.
As for Knives Out, judging by what’s in the trailer, the film looks… problematic, at best. The dialogue in the trailer is pretty awful (CSI:KFC is an actual line Rian Johnson not only wrote, but included in his movie), and the tone for the film seems to be all over the place. Is it a twisty thriller? A cozy mystery? A grimdark cerebral thinkpiece? A post-modern comedy? It’s impossible to tell based on what the trailer reveals to us. Also, Daniel Craig’s southern accent is atrocious. (Just my opinion. If you like it, that’s fine.)
So the jury is still out on this movie, but the initial impression is not a good one, if I’m being honest (and I’m trying to keep my feelings about The Last Jedi out of my evaluation here). I’m typically a big fan of these types of mystery movies, but none of what I’ve seen so far has really made me actually interested in seeing this film. What about you? Are you going to see Knives Out? What did you think of the trailer? Will Knives Out affect the success of The Rise Of Skywalker? Let me know in the comments.