Posts tagged "Thriller"

“Knives Out” is an ingeniously funny and smart whodunit movie

November 24th, 2019 Posted by Film Festivals, Review 0 thoughts on ““Knives Out” is an ingeniously funny and smart whodunit movie”

Writer and director Rian Johnson changes gears from “Star Wars: Episode VIII-The Last Jedi” to his newest film “Knives Out,” an ingenious, whip-smart comedic thriller with an incredible all-star cast. This old-fashioned “who-dunnit” crime story takes us on a ride of mystery, intrigue, and puzzle-solving while laughing the entire time. This is a standout film of the year.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is the family’s patriarch having made his fortune writing murder mysteries. Coincidentally, the old man dies in his palatial mansion and his family, focused on the inheritance and not shedding a tear, are stopped short of the treasure chest as the famed Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) suspects foul play. This, of course, would change the cause of death from suicide to murder and now puts each and every family member under the microscope as suspects.

Oh, what a family this is! Timing the release perfectly for Thanksgiving, you’ll find that your own family isn’t quite so dysfunctional after watching this one. Johnson covers all his family relationship bases with an ex-wife, a trust fund, shallow grandson named Ransom (Chris Evans), a controlling daughter, Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), and Valley Girl Joni (Toni Collette) as well as the disappointing son Walt (Michael Shannon). There are plenty of in-law issues beginning with Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson) and strange grandchildren. We even have the Keystone Cops lead by Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield).

It’s evident from the beginning that we are in for a rip-roaring good time as the interrogation begins. Flashing between each of the suspects, a lone man slouches off in the corner at a piano, intermittently hitting a single key. Confusingly funny, the subjects make comments as to this man’s presence. We see the tangled web of deceit has been spun perfectly and now the players are all accounted for. The story then takes us back in time using a non-linear storytelling technique to put the pieces of the puzzle in proper order to solve the mystery of who killed Harlan Thrombey…or was it a suicide?

“Knives Out” keeps you on your toes with its clever unveiling of clues while distracting you with these bizarre and over-the-top characters who all have a motive or two. Collette and Evans take on roles and perform like you’ve never seen them before adding to the unexpected twists and turns as well as the hilarity. Johnson’s genius writing is always a step ahead of you, never putting all the pieces of the puzzle together until he wants you to.

The film, in all is jocularity, actually finds a way to address a common theme of movies this year: the haves versus the have-nots. Of course, with this wealthy family comes the topic of entitlement and work ethics, but these heavier subjects are all boiling well beneath the surface, fostering the hilarious situations and consequences.

While all the characters and performances are uniquely strong, the commonality among them is the actors truly seem to be having fun, elevating their performances to the highest level. Plummer just gets better and better, showing audiences that he truly can take any role and bring it to its ultimate potential. His character of “Harlan” is smart and strong with great wisdom and verve all delivered with a knowing twinkle in his eye. Each actor’s character gets a moment in the spotlight, allowing us to know who they truly are and what drives them. Two surprising performances come from Craig as he stuns us with his comedic timing. It’s a dry humor, the writing creating a strange interaction to make us laugh, but it it Craig’s interpretation and presentation that adds just the right touch. And then there’s Evans who certainly doesn’t come off as Capt. America. He’s a narcissistic, entitled, blue blood who is despicably condescending—but all of these attributes are presented in unexpectedly delightful ways.

Another surprise is a relatively unknown actor who has a lead in this film, Ana de Armas who portrays Marta Cabrera, the nurse and caregiver for Harlan. Her storyline stitches all the characters together while the social issue of immigration plays every so perfectly into this narrative. de Armas’ performance hits all the right notes as she invites us to walk in her shoes. She’s remarkably engaging, honing her ability to connect with the audience no matter her circumstances.

As you can see, there is one enjoyable and entertaining surprise after another. Its fast pace never lets you catch your breath as you happily try to see the full picture, but alas, Johnson is the driver of that car and you’ll get there when he wants you to. To find such an entertaining murder mystery with the feel of a film from days gone by is an absolute treasure. This incredibly smart and funny film with standout performances from actors who are having as much fun as the viewer is sure to be tops on not just critics’ lists, but yours as well.

4/4 stars

“Wale” Uses social perceptions to create intense and powerful thriller

January 10th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Wale” Uses social perceptions to create intense and powerful thriller”

First-time writer and director Barnaby Blackburn gives us “Wale, the story of a teen who made mistakes in is short life, paid for his crime, and is now on a better path as he attempts to start a business. Wale’s (Raphel Famotibe) first customer, O’Brian (Jamie Sives) will change Wale’s life forever.

Wale (Famotibe) appears to be a typical kid now, but his criminal record and time in juvenile lock up is a part that he wanted and was ready to put behind him. Living with his mother (Clare Perkins), we gain not only an understanding of his past, but also connect with this young man who wants nothing more than to make his mother proud and earn a living honestly. As he goes to the street market to advertise his skills as an auto mechanic, he bumps into O’Brian (Sives) who just happens to be in need of Wale’s services. Inviting the young man to his home, he treats him like a friend, and trusts him with his high-end car which has a “problem.”

In this short film, there is a constant feeling of impending doom even as Wale’s positivity attempts to shine through. His personality allows the viewer to forgive his transgressions and we root for him to succeed, but there is something off with O’Brian. The skilled writing creates this distrust in him, but we just can’t put our finger on what’s wrong until it’s too late. We discover the problem just as Wale does and gasp, never expecting to learn what we now know.

The story becomes a harrowing one, eliciting our own breathing to become shallow and our hearts to race as we put ourselves in Wale’s shoes. Each and every scene is an unexpected one, layering the tension to a point of explosion. These surprises don’t stop until the very end where Blackburn fades out.

“Wale” is one of the most riveting and intellectually stimulating short films this year. Creating viable circumstances while integrating social dynamics and stereotypes into the story generates plausibility. And Blackburn never allows you to see more than he wants you to, giving the film that incredible tension and stress.

Wale’s ensemble cast is comprised of two main characters who shine in their roles. Without giving too much away, Sives is extraordinary as we watch the subtlety of his performance and we discover his true self. Famotibe is equally skilled in his performance, portraying a young man with a second chance in life who is dealt a horrifying hand. His realistic reactions drive the story, never too much and never too little. It’s true perfection in a performance.

“Wale” is a short film that has the power of a feature, bringing to light societal prejudices while capturing an intriguing story. Blackburn’s writing and direction lay the firm foundation upon which his actors beautifully bring his words and tale to life. To think this is Blackburn’s first film is exciting as he has a grand future ahead of him.

4 Stars

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