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Sometimes you’re sitting in a movie theater watching a movie and you might feel like the movie thinks it’s smarter than it actually is. And it can really take you out of the movie you’re watching. Because someone trying to outsmart an audience definitely puts a sour taste in the mouths of those watching the story unfold. But when a movie takes you on a ride and makes you question everything you thought you knew without trying to be wrong? It’s a great movie and that’s, personally, how I would describe the way Rian Johnson makes his mystery movies, like Knives out.
The whodunit is a special art, and Rian Johnson has mastered it in a way that transports his audience and forces them to question themselves again and again until we don’t know where the right answer lies. That’s what happened with Knives out and, from the reviews I’ve seen of the Netflix sequel, Glass Onionlooks like he did it again!
And one of director and screenwriter Rian Johnson’s most delightful responses to the film’s premiere at the Toronto Film Festival is that he explained the difference between taking audiences on a roller coaster and trying to outsmart them. This is what a lot of whodunnits fall victim to. It’s easy to think you can fool someone, but the reality is that someone in that audience already knew the ending. And Johnson doesn’t seem to be trying to think he can outsmart the people he’s telling stories to.
“No one is smarter than the audience, and I think it’s a fool’s game to try to outsmart an audience,” Johnson said at the premiere. Onion of glass: a mystery at loggerheads, and that really highlights why I think Knives out worked so well and why Glass Onion receives rave reviews from the Toronto International Film Festival.
That’s what makes Johnson’s movies work
One of my favorite aspects of Knives out comes from the fact that I knew it was Ransom Drysdale (played by Chris Evans) almost instantly. But Knives out kept me on my toes because I wondered if I was right or not. Johnson weaved a story that took me to the peak of my detective skills thinking I had it all figured out, then quickly brought me back down thinking I knew nothing.
I was convinced that Chris Evans was a bad guy, but then with every piece of information Benoit Blanc got (played brilliantly by Daniel Craig) I became more convinced that I was overconfident and started to rethink everything . The movie never made me feel like I couldn’t understand, and it never tried to outsmart me. What he did, as Johnson said, took me on a roller coaster ride, and I really think that’s why his thriller brand is doing so well.
An audience knows when you’re playing your hand, and playing it makes a better movie than trying to incorporate stuff that’s supposed to “outsmart” us. And that’s why I like the idea of Knives out so many movies.
(featured image: Lionsgate)
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