Theater review. Spoilers lurk. Some of my favorite movies are those involving great mysteries. Something from Agatha Christie like “Murder on the Orient Express” or “Death on the Nile” or Sherlock Holmes (not the ones with Robert Downey, Jr) or even TV’s “Columbo.” Here’s the latest example and it’s a good one.
Last seen directing “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi,” Rian Johnson helms this familial who-done-it set in New England. A respected and wealthy novelist named Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) has just celebrated his 85th birthday. His entire family is there except for one grandchild, Ransom (Chris Evans). Others include daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her husband Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson), parents of Ransom. A son, Walt (Michael Shannon) and his wife Donna (Riki Lindhome), a daughter-in-law, Joni (Toni Collette) whose husband died, grandchildren Meg (Katherine Langford) and Jacob (Jaeden Martell). Also in the house was housekeeper, Fran (Edi Patterson) and Harlan’s nurse and caretaker, Marta (Ana de Armas).
The evening of the birthday, Harlan is found dead, apparently of suicide by slitting his own throat. As the film opens, a detective, Lt Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield), a State Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) and a mysterious private detective named Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) are questioning the family and staff one by one.
Elliott is about to close the case but Blanc asks to keep things open for a while. Craig, goes from his native British accent to a syrupy southern drawl that seems perfect for the character, the American version of Hercule Poirot. When a few days later attorney Alan Stevens (Frank Oz) comes to read the will. The first one who shows up Ransom. As someone says, typical Ransom, missing from the birthday, first in line for the will reading.
As a surprise to everyone, Harlan’s fortune including the huge Victorian mansion and grounds, the book publishing corporation, book residuals amount to millions of dollars don’t go to those who expected them, but the person closest to him…Marta! In fact Ms. De Armas is the surprising lead actor in this thriller. She’s quite good in what has to be her biggest role.
The cornpone PI eventually manages to put it all together with help from Harlan’s way-old mother (K Callan). The film is full of surprises and wonderful humor. In one scene when Blanc first meets Ransom, Ransom asks, “What is this, CSI: KFC?” Family fun. Recommended.