Top Ten Movies of 2019 — Number Ten

kives out title card

With a rare and gratifying exuberance for the abundant possibilities found in genre-based storytelling, writer-director Rian Johnson proved anew his mighty abilities to slyly invert tropes with Knives Out. A modern polish on the twisty mysteries tapped out by Agatha Christie and others, Johnson’s film deconstructs the form as means of showing off the gleam of the components and stirring admiration for the clicking precision with which they fit together. The dead body that rouses the attention of famed detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is part of wealthy family prone to back-stabbing, allowing for clever comic commentary on the class divide that sits in the belly of the nation like a rot. The film is an ingenious entertainment that also carries a meaningful message, embodied in a performance of aching morality by Ana de Armas, playing the nursing assistant of the freshly deceased family patriarch (Christopher Plummer). As usual, Johnson’s dialogue sparks like a blade against a spinning grindstone, and his visual sense is defined by a bright, casual inventiveness. And the plotting is airtight, as it should be for this sort of film. Everything matters, but Knives Out never feels burdensome with detail. It is endlessly lively, buoyed by fizzy charm, mostly due to the obvious affection embedded in every artistic choice and every beat of the performances of the stellar cast. Knives Out practically gleams.