- 10 Jan 20
SUPERB MURDER-MYSTERY TAKES INSPIRATION FROM AGATHA CHRISTIE
When a rich mystery writer is discovered dead in the attic of his gothic mansion and each member of his greedy family has a plausible motive for wanting him dead, the question is: how much fun can Rian Johnson and a killer cast wring out of a modern Agatha Christie-style whodunnit?
The answer is: a tonne. Hot on the heels of Jordan Peele's social horrors Get Out and Us, and the capitalist patriarchy-smashing comedy-horror Ready Or Not, writer-director Johnson skewers the idea of privilege, wealth and race in this rip-roaring mystery. Following the apparent suicide of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), country-fried inspector Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) starts investigating who could have killed him: was it floundering son Walt (Michael Shannon); swaggering, selfish playboy grandson Hugh (Chris Evans); philandering son-in-la Richard (Don Johnson); or Goop-style daughter-in-law (Toni Collette)?
The extended clan is full of characters all professing their love of Harlan – but tiny, wickedly funny moments and razor-sharp cultural references show a family knee-deep in resentment, privilege and entitlement. Daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) is "self-made" – she just got a tiny, million-dollar loan first. An online troll and neo-Nazi grandson parrots the "Devilıs Advocate" anti-immigrant views of his uncle. The family performatively express love and respect for Harlan's kind-hearted nurse Marta (Ana deArmas), though no-one's sure what country she's from. They also have a condescending attitude towards "the help" that they mask by awkwardly quoting Hamilton lyrics.
But when Blanc discovers that Marta has a "regurgitative reaction to mistruthing" – yes, she literally vomits when she lies – he realises she could be the key to all of the family's secrets, including what happened to Harlan. But another mystery remains: who hired Blanc? And why?
Johnson's writing blends searing social satire about race and class in America with a masterfully constructed central mystery, which unfolds in flashbacks, interrogations and throwaway comments that prove to be crucial clues. Production designer David Crank creates a house-shaped Cluedo board filled with secret entrances and creaky stairs, and the camerawork alternately captures the tension, absurdity and danger swirling around these characters. The wickedly talented ensemble cast are clearly having an absolute blast – and you will too.