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Knives Out is one of those films that is as much fun to watch as it is to talk about after, from discussions of the pitch perfect production design, Rian Johnson’s gloriously clever, Oscar-nominated script, and, especially, the performances. When is the last time you saw a star-studded ensemble cast this good? Perhaps in a Wes Anderson movie, but that is beside my point.
The point is that Rian Johnson’s 2019 whodunnit is one of the best casted crowd pleasers in years, in my humble opinion. While I am much anticipating Daniel Craig’s reprisal of Benoit Blanc in the upcoming Knives Out sequel, I am a little bummed we will likely not see the likes of Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, and the rest of the wonderful cast returning with him.
It is hard to determine whom I would choose as the cast member who turned out the best performance in the film, but I am going to try anyway. These are the five performers in whom I believe made the most memorable killing in Knives Out, ranked in ascending order.
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers to Knives Out**. Unless you would rather the twists and turns of this whodunnit be ruined for you, we recommend you catch yourself up before you continue reading.**
5. Jamie Lee Curtis (Linda Drysdale)
She first became a star by desperately outrunning the cold, cunning, ruthless Michael Myers as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher masterpiece Halloween. More than 40 years later, Jamie Lee Curtis won over audiences in Knives Out as the cold, cunning, ruthless Linda Drysdale, whom the overwhelmed Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) is desperate to outrun after an awkward reveal in her father, Harlan Thrombey’s (Christopher Plummer), will.
Jamie Lee Curtis nails her character’s two-faced persona, often exhibiting a demeanor that is loving, empathetic, and sternly protective of her father’s legacy until the shock of receiving not a cent of inheritance reveals her selfishness, bitterness, and greed. The two-time Golden Globe-winning actress was actually featured in scenes from Knives Out she was not originally meant to appear in due to how well she impressed director Rian Johnson with her strong admiration for the film and the fact that she happened to be on set. Let that be a tip for life: even after becoming an expert, never lose the enthusiasm of a beginner.
4. Toni Collette (Joni Thrombey)
I don’t know about you, but I still think that Toni Collette was unjustly overlooked by the Academy for her devastating performance in Ari Aster’s 2018 masterful debut horror feature Hereditary. I was hoping her scene-stealing role in Knives Out could potentially have a chance to make up for that. Oh, well.
As Joni, perhaps the one member of the Thrombey clan most out of touch with reality (not counting Great Nana), the Australian actress plays arguably her funniest role to date (and, maybe, in the film) as a middle-aged woman desperate to fit in with the Millennial crowd, with reveals like her discovery of Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc by reading “a tweet about a New Yorker article” about him. Joni’s role in Knives Out becomes all the more intriguing, and frustrating, when her plot to grub extra money from the unwitting Harlan, her father-in-law, is revealed, but Toni Collette’s incorporation of selfish ignorance mixed with bewildered desperation almost earns your sympathy.
3. Chris Evans (Ransom Drysdale)
Perhaps the most shocking reveal in Knives Out is the discovery that Chris Evans, known best as the Avengers’ Golden Boy, is also exceptionally skilled at playing a real piece of garbage. Even before the ultimate reveal that his character, Hugh Drysdale (who goes by his middle name), is the one truly responsible for his grandfather’s death after learning he is cut off from the will, he makes it so fun to hate him, even if you do not suspect him for foul play to begin with.
However, there is also something oddly charming about how the 38-year-old heartthrob plays this otherwise spoiled, despicable prick, especially in how he gleefully tells his entire family to “eat shit,” a line he came up himself with after Rian Johnson reimagined the film as PG-13 mid-shoot. That should be enough to cement Chris Evans’ role in Knives Out as more than just a dude in slick sweater.
2. Ana de Armas (Marta Cabrera)
Prior to her upcoming role as Daniel Craig’s Bond girl in the upcoming No Time to Die, Ana de Armas played his “Watson,” Marta Cabrera, in Knives Out. Little does Benoit Blanc reveal that the hired nurse to the Harlan Thrombey is racing to avoid incriminating herself from right under his nose, as she believes Thrombey’s death to be the cause of her mistakenly giving him a lethal dose of morphine. Her situation only worsens when she unexpectedly becomes the sole heir to the millionaire mystery novelist’s fortune, much to the chagrin of his family.
In a Golden Globe-nominated performance as the reluctant central heroine of Knives Out, Cuban actress Ana de Armas is also the beating heart and precious soul of the film, immediately earning the audience’s sympathy as she struggles to get out of her overwhelmingly grim situation. The irresistible desperation in her eyes, as well as her dishonesty-induced vomiting affliction not doing her any favors, makes it impossible not to root for her to, technically, “get away with murder,” until the truth is revealed, of course, by the film’s most memorable character and my choice of the best performance.
1. Daniel Craig (Benoit Blanc)
There is no question why Rian Johnson chose to break his unspoken rule to avoiding sequels to his work by teasing a follow-up to Knives Out because fans will agree that the mystery genre needs more of Benoit Blanc. Daniel Craig’s irreverent private I with, as Ransom Drysdale puts it, a “Kentucky-fried, Foghorn Leghorn drawl” may not be the story’s true hero, but is one of its saviors from being just another whodunnit.
Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc with a silly, absent-mindedness that makes you question his reliability until his brilliant breakthrough by the end, but his undisputed politeness and professionalism keep you hanging onto his every hilariously over-eloquent word and in anticipation of his next dessert analogy or quirky nervous tic. I may have said that I will be bummed out not to see the rest of the original Knives Out cast return for the sequel, but as long as Craig is around, I believe we can all cope.
What do you think? Is my Knives Out performance ranking a killer list, or is how I chose these five as my top favorites a mystery to you? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back from more updates on Rian Johnson's whodunnit and its sequel here on CinemaBlend.