Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana De Armas, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer
Director: Rian Johnson
When wealthy mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Plummer) is found with his throat cut after a family gathering, the police investigation is joined by famous eccentric detective Benoit Blanc (Craig). While all the members of the family had their reasons for killing the patriarch of the family, his nurse Marta (De Armas), a woman who throws up when she lies, might know more than she’s saying and have the most to gain.
If you’ve seen the movie Clue you know that the mystery genre has been around so long that it’s always ripe for a parody and that that kind of parody can be very funny. This film appears to be a kind of golden age mystery, something that Agatha Christie might write, with an old house full of secrets and a wealthy man with heirs who all need money. A classic mystery set up. It’s odd though. Everyone in this film is a big name, and it feels kind of surprising that they all signed up for an ensemble film where none of them would be given much to do. It think I guessed the ending of the film almost immediately. And it’s not that funny, so I’m not sure if it’s meant to be a mystery film or a comedy. Is it intentionally funny? In which case, it’s not very witty. Or is it meant to be a crime story with some humour? In which case, why reveal so much so early and why not make the film have some kind of twist?
Rian Johnson directed Looper and Brick, both of which are interesting films which make you think and have some sense of intrigue and mystery, twist and turns… This film really isn’t up to the standard of those films.
I also had to wonder about Daniel Craig’s detective. His southern accent is terrible, and for someone who purports to be the last, eccentric detective, a la Christie or Dorthy Sayers, Benoit Blanc is pretty ordinary. He doesn’t seem to have any quirks or even dress in an interesting way like Poirot. He just has a dodgy accent. Perhaps Daniel Craig just isnt all that funny? I really like him in a lot of things, but here, he fails to make an impact and his lines or humourous moments failed to land.
What the film does do nicely is set design, location and costuming. I really wanted to explore that house and pick everything up, and even know more about the books that Harlan Thrombey wrote. It feels like he likes interesting props and his place might have secret passages or something. There is one trick window, but that’s about it. Actually, the house is so beautifully designed and creates a world so well that it felt a little odd when the film was in other locations. There are some scenes where Marta is driving around, and it was normal streets and locations… it felt jarring after that incredible, cluttered house. Why leave that location when there’s so much possibility for story to mine there?
The characters are mostly cliche and don’t do much. Michael Shannon is always good and gets to be menacing. There’s a kid who is apparently a Nazi, but he gets very little to do. Toni Collette is great as a thinly veiled, shallow Gwyneth Paltrow, which was actually pretty funny. Don Johnson and Jamie Lee Curtis are also there… I mean, these are all excellent characters, but the film really does nothing with them except make them stock types and make them say cliche things, and talk about today’s politics, which frankly, is already dated with how fast life is moving this year. And that people are propably at the movies trying to get away from… Why did all these great people sign up for this film and then get hardly any screen time and almost no dastardly machinations or suspicion thrown on them? Well, except Chris Evans, but it’s super heavy handed and we know almost immediately what his role in it all is. At least I did… I think we’re meant to.
In essence, it’s not a bad film at all, it’s just not a great one and feels like a Netflix special rather than something you’d pay to see in the cinema. As someone who loves a mystery, I had fun, even though the film got kinda long winded in the middle and was a bit slow, it’s not bad. But it’s not great either. If I saw this was coming up on TV, I’d be happy about it and watch it, but it doesn’t have those great qualities that make for a memorable film. Oddly enough, it looks like it’s getting a sequel.
See It If: you love watching Poirot or Nero Wolfe reruns on your weekend afternoons. It’s fun, but not special.