This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
It’s always funny, and maybe a little depressing, how urgent and important any year’s awards contenders appear in the moment and how high the stakes seem to be as to whether they’ll get recognition—and then how quickly we forget that most of them existed, sometimes even just a year later. Remember that Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour? That was a thing, and only two years ago! And what about Lion? Frost/Nixon? The Imitation Game? How often do you think about The Imitation Game?
I can say with certainty, however, that I will never forget the first time I heard Daniel Craig speak in Knives Out. Who’s to say how often the phrase Ford v. Ferrari will escape from my lips in the next decade—though I can guess—or the amount of Two Popes discourse that will dominate brunch conversation with my friends next summer. But you can bet that I will never shut up about Craig’s Foghorn Leghorn accent, the vocal equivalent of a Southern gent twirling his mustache and smoking a pipe of tobacky on the porch, in Knives Out.
The murder-mystery was written and directed by Rian Johnson as an homage to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot yarns, and it’s tinged with surprising political-comic overtones. It’s a comedy thriller that comments on Who We Are Today as it careens through its twists and laughs, like Murder on the Orient Express making a detour to the set of Clue, with, like, Damon Lindelof as the conductor.
A crime novelist named Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found with his throat slit the morning after a family party, making every one of his greedy relatives a suspect. The best part of Knives Out is Craig going all-in as a private detective named—and I am not kidding—Benoit Blanc. That’s high praise considering the litany of other extremely good parts of Knives Out, from Johnson’s equal parts shrewd and cheeky script to the rest of the stacked cast playing hilarious characters.
Jamie Lee Curtis is the morally superior eldest sibling, and a riot. Michael Shannon sports an array of frowns and chunky sweaters as her brother, who also happens to have a neo-Nazi troll for a young son. Chris Evans is a smarmy, spoiled trust fund kid. Toni Collette is a leeching in-law who runs a lifestyle website called Flam, a not-subtle send-up of Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop, and a character and performance I plan to write a dissertation about one day.
But Daniel Craig, people. He is outrageous. Ridiculous, even. It shouldn’t work. And yet!!!
It’s such a pleasant surprise. Craig, who once said he’d rather slit his wrists than play James Bond again before accepting the GDP of a mid-sized nation to play James Bond again, always seems so cranky to me. Actually, most actors who have played James Bond give off that vibe. It’s a strange thing, actors who suit a character that embodies impossible sex appeal, effortless charm, and swashbuckling machismo, yet also give off the palpable energy that they’re the kind of guy who would ask a waitress why she’s not writing this down as they give their order at a restaurant.
Turns out, Craig is capable of delivering a smirking romp, too. There are many options for Thanksgiving holiday movie outings this year. I highly recommend A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a rare PG adult drama boasting a Tom Hanks performance as Mr. Rogers that is truly something to be thankful for. Queen & Slim is great, if maybe a bit of a left-field choice to take your Aunt Joan to. And as inevitable sequels and cynical cash-grabs go, Frozen 2 is more than worthwhile.
But Knives Out is where it’s at, folks. If I haven’t convinced you yet, let me just say that at one point Daniel Craig sits in a car singing along to “Losing My Mind” from the musical Follies, a moment that nearly gave me a heart attack. Enjoy!