Writer-director Rian Johnson’s playful, knockabout whodunnit Knives Out has been receiving praise for its screenplay that we feel isn’t quite warranted, and isn’t much to look at either – but it’s a lark, and one that carries some unexpected sociopolitical commentary. José argues that Johnson doesn’t learn enough from the films upon which his pastiche is based, making too little of both the wonderful cast he’s assembled and the wonderful sets he’s had assembled for him, though the film isn’t devoid of flair or structural neatness. Mike was with the film more or less all the way, though suggests that it won’t play as well in the distracted environment of the home, the minutiae of the countless plot details easy to lose track of as one tries to make sense of them. So it’s worth a watch, but it’s neither as elegant nor as charming as we’d like.
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Mike hadn’t seen Sidney Lumet’s classic version of Murder on the Orient Express so we saw it together and basically compare the two but keep the focus on the original. We discuss which performances we prefer in each version, what we make of the differences in style and tone between the film, which film was better directed and who was the better Poirot? We also ask whether the action sequences in the new film were quite necessary. We don’t agree but Mike mounts a good defence.
Mike and I discuss the form of these Agatha Christie film adaptations, how Agatha Christies’s types in the novels here intersect with star personaes; we disagree about Kenneth Branagh as a film star though agree on him as an actor and director; we praise Michele Pfeiffer above all but also Johnny Depp, Lucy Boynton, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Derek Jacobi). Has Branagh beefed up his part at the expense of the other stars? We disagree. Is the film a successful whodunnit? Are the action scenes necessary? Is the film suspenseful? Is it too CGI? Does the end bring out moral ambiguity? We did not discuss how collective revenge in the absence of justice connects to modern times though we should have. We did agree that it’s a film we’d happily watch again if shown on ITV on a Sunday afternoon.