The turn of the decade saw parts of the country engulfed in the coolest winter in recent memory. Punjab, especially, saw records being broken, with Lahore witnessing its lowest temperature in 35 years as the mercury plummeted to 2 degrees.
While we each might have our own tastes for various temperatures, there is almost unanimous consensus among the literati that there are few better ways to enjoy winter than cozying up inside a blanket and reading a murder mystery – a classic whodunit – or, indeed, watching an enactment of one. This might explain the continued presence of Knives Out in multiplexes, which is still being enjoyed nationwide – nay, worldwide.
Of course, the temperatures alone don’t suffice in keeping films up on the screen for a prolonged period, with January being the third month that Knives Out is being screened in Pakistan despite competition from some of the most illustrious franchise names, many of whom we’ve discussed in this space.
Knives Out, without a shadow of a doubt, is one of the topmost whodunits written in the 21st century, and the critical acclaim and plaudits that it is mustering worldwide is a testament to that. If murder mysteries is your thing, you just cannot spend any more time without having watched the film. In fact, rest assured, once you do see it, a second watch will offer you pleasures of its own.
If you’ve ever been remotely interested in the mystery genre, Agatha Christie is one name you would find hard to miss out on. Knives Out is a self-confessed tribute to the queen of the mystery genre by writer and director Rian Johnson, who here navigates waters of a different kind as compared to his recent voyages with Looper and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Johnson, whose writing is on absolute top form throughout the film, completely self-indulges in this tribute for Christie and the genre she mastered, with layers wherein the central character in the film himself is a mystery author as well.
Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, with a French name – albeit with a southern accent – in turn plays the 21st- century Hercule Poirot, but without the overt genius that was almost mandatory in murder mysteries of yesteryears.
We generally try and touch the plot of any film – even the ones that we aren’t particularly kind towards – to a bare minimum in this space, given that any fact revealed about the storyline is a spoiler of some degree. Therefore, in this particular case, we wouldn’t dare even hint at the story.
All you need to know is that it is a tour de force for the genre, one that will be remembered as such throughout the 21st century. And this isn’t because there is something unprecedented about the element of mystery in the storyline, or the solution it unravels. It’s simply a case of masterful writing, direction and acting, all coming together to give a product that just hasn’t had a match in recent years – definitely not since the turn of the century.
Mystery writers have always faced the challenge of coming up with a new twist in a world where the genre has traditionally gone into overkill, with an increasing number of permutations continuously explored. Therefore, to offer something truly fresh and extraordinary in the age-old whodunit realm is a daunting challenge.
Knives Out picks up the gauntlet with aplomb and conjures, in Benoit Blanc’s words, a whodunit that has “a donut-hole within a donut-hole”. The hole itself mightn’t be extraordinary, but the donut is as delicious as any you’ve ever had. And that’s Rian Johnson’s way of showing how it’s done – or howdunit.