"The Oldie is an incredible magazine - perhaps the best magazine in the world right now" Graydon Carter, founder of Air Mail and former Editor of Vanity Fair

Subscribe to the Oldie and get a free cartoon book


The return of Knives Out. By Harry Mount

Blog | By Harry Mount | Apr 02, 2021

Christopher Plummer, filming The Sound of Music, 1964

As Daniel Craig announces two sequels to the film, Harry Mount hails his performance in the marvellous comedy whodunnit, Knives Out

Knives Out could have been made in 1959 – and that’s a compliment.

A black comedy murder mystery, set in a creaking Massachusetts mansion, it’s Agatha Christie meets Alfred Hitchcock meets The Ladykillers.

And it’s a joy. At a time when so many films are earnest and bleak and take themselves far too seriously, here is a self-mocking, joky movie that rattles along a devilishly brilliant plotline so quickly that you don’t notice it’s two hours and ten minutes long.

What’s more, Daniel Craig, playing Benoit Blanc, a sort of Deep South Sherlock Holmes, is not only funny – he also gets the Louisiana accent spot on. Credit to his dialect coach, Diego Daniel Pardo.

The murder victim is top thriller-writer Harlan Thrombey – played by a marvellously grumpy Christopher Plummer, who has sadly just died at 91, and enjoyed a spectacular autumn to his career.

Everyone in Harlan’s dysfunctional family depends on him for their money – among them the comically spoilt Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson and Toni Collette as his daughter, son-in-law and daughter-in-law. And everyone is a suspect when Harlan is found dead with his throat slashed.

Enter Daniel Craig as the master-detective. The more he looks into the story, the more complicated it becomes. At one point, I really had to concentrate because there were so many bluffs and double-bluffs colliding into each other. But it was a pleasant form of concentration – as if you yourself were the detective.

Billy Wilder said that, if you let the audience complete a joke in their mind, they’ll thank you for ever. It’s the same with a complicated murder plot – if you can work it out yourself, you feel like Professor Moriarty.

The film is set in 2019 but everyone’s dressed with retro-style: Craig wears a particularly cool grey suit he could have borrowed off Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959). There are a few digs at modern America but politics don’t get in the way of a thoroughly jolly film that flatters your intelligence.

And there are some lovely lines: Daniel Craig declares, ‘Why do men pull at loose threads on their parachutes?’ Rian Johnson – best known for directing and writing Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – wrote, directed and produced Knives Out. What a multi-tasker!