Starring: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr, Dave Bautista, Kate Hudson, Angela Lansbury
Runtime: 140 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2022
Reviewer: Peter W Sheehan
Famed Southern detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) finds himself with another murder case to solve – this time in Greece.
This murder mystery film is written, directed and co-produced by Rian Johnson and is a stand-alone sequel to the 2019 film Knives Out, which also starred Craig as the master detective, Benoit Blanc. It features a large ensemble cast, and filming took place on the Greek island of Spetses. The story occurs during Covid lockdowns, which gives contemporary relevance to the movie.
The film is not a simple continuation of Knives Out. It sets up a different plotline and cast. Miles Bron (Norton), a billionaire, invites a disparate group of friends to his private luxury retreat on the affluent island of Spetses in Attica, Greece. For most of the group (but not all), it is simply an annual reunion. Those attending include an ex-business partner, Cassandra ‘Andi’ Brand (Monae) – an outcast celebrity, who turns up uninvited. Among the invited are an ambitious candidate for the position of Connecticut Governor, Claire Debella (Hahn), a renowned scientist, Lionel Toussaint (Odom Jr), a gun-happy men’s rights activist, Duke Cody (Bautista) – who feels he has to carry a gun everywhere – and a former fashion model, Birdie Jay (Hudson). [Bautista is Craig’s foe from the James Bond movie Spectre (2015).]
All those attending the party have secrets they don’t want to share, and the film has Angela Lansbury’s final (brief) screen performance. Miles Bron invites his guests to play a murder game with himself as the murder victim. He has given each of his guests a gift box containing an elaborate set of puzzles with an invitation to play the game. Not surprisingly, an actual death occurs, and Detective Benoit Blanc (Craig) swings into action to find who was responsible. Benoit Blanc himself was never expected to attend.
Director Rian Johnson draws heavily from Agatha Christie mystery novels. The title of the film refers to a song of the same name sung by the Beatles which is featured in the film’s credits, and the movie has gained Ensemble Awards on the Film Festival Circuit. The large cast of the film guarantees the plotline is appreciably puzzling and complex. The Greek Island of Spetses supplies attractive scenery, and Craig performs in character as master sleuth, Benoit Blanc. Stand-outs among the huge acting cast are Hudson and Monae.
The film delivers multiple plot surprises, and members of the diverse cast interact with each other to build tension. The result is a movie populated by a huge array of murder suspects”. Misunderstandings and mistaken identities abound, but Benoit Blanc manages to solve the case in Agatha Christie fashion. This is a thoroughly escapist action-filled epic. There is a huge plot change, half-way through the film, which will shift the expectations of most viewers.
The film switches somewhat unevenly from evoking startle responses to straightforward cognitive unravelling of plot complexity, before concluding with a thriller-type fiery flourish.
The themes of the movie relate to corporate greed and deception, personal animosity, class division, and repressed jealousy. The film engages in satirical exposés for good measure, and specifically targets people who assume they have the power and influence to do whatever they want. The film is well written, and well acted, and Craig, in particular, looks to be immensely enjoying himself, after stepping down from his James Bond movies. Although sundry cameo-appearances affect plot coherence, the film is cleverly constructed, with multiple surprise twists, that stylistically entertain.
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