Director: Martin Scorsese
Genre(s): Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Runtime: 138 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
With 2010’s Shutter Island, director Martin Scorsese waded into the world of the psychological horror-thriller film…and he did so quite effectively, in my opinion. Set in the 1950s, this movie is about two American federal agents – Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) – who’re sent to investigate the disappearance of an inmate from an offshore asylum for the criminally insane. Despite a somewhat mixed reception from critics, many moviegoers have latched onto this menacing mind-bender.
Professional film reviewers are generally quick to compare this picture to the works of director Alfred Hitchcock, but there are also notable elements of noir and pulp here, too. I can’t help but feel that the aforementioned pulpy aspects threw some critics, who may have expected something a bit more grounded, for a loop. Anyway, this flick’s paranoid thriller style is supremely foreboding and sinister.
With its high-impact imagery and tense musical choices (collected by Robbie Robertson of The Band fame), Shutter Island is gripping from the start and never lets up. It starts off mysterious and uneasy before building up to fever dream-like ferocity. Some audience members have found some of the production’s plot points to be predictable, but I think that it’s just as much about the journey as it is about the destination in this case.
This feature got a divisive reaction, and I happen to fall on the side believing that it’s a superb piece of suspense and psychological terror. Its plot is alluring and the pacing is swift enough to keep the viewer from questioning some of its potential excesses. For fans of trippy cinema that messes with your head while remaining somewhat mainstream (we’re not talking Un Chien Andalou  levels of nuttiness here), this is an easy one to recommend.
My rating is 8 outta 10.
Director: Rian Johnson
Genre(s): Comedy, Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Runtime: 130 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Now this is the kind of film that director Rian Johnson should be making, instead of “subverting [the] expectations” of Star Wars fans with Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017) (which is still a movie I enjoy on some level). After famous murder mystery author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead in his mansion, detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) brings in the writer’s family to see if foul play was involved. This is an excellent whodunit murder mystery picture that made me want to see more adventures of Daniel Craig’s character.
The plot of Knives Out is intricate, but, by mystery movie standards, it doesn’t feel convoluted. I’m no good at following flicks that are like the latter, so if I could understand what was going on, you, almost certainly, will be able to as well. Fortunately for the audience, the various characters in this feature are mostly well-defined and played by an all-star cast. Despite all of the twists and turns, the film doesn’t really try to confuse the viewer or make following the details difficult.
Knives Out, in addition to being a mystery/thriller movie, is a comedy. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s definitely the murder-related elements that keep it afloat. It’s certainly self-aware, but that doesn’t become a hindrance to enjoyment (Knives Out isn’t as cheeky as critics of The Last Jedi may have feared). It’s interesting to note that Christopher Plummer’s character’s home is filled with knick-knacks that seem to stare back at the audience and the people within the film. This may be a reference to Sleuth (1972), which did something similar.
This work left me wanting more…in a good sort of way. It doesn’t really matter if it would be other murder mysteries or another picture or two featuring Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc. I suppose that’s a sign that something went right. Knives Out is an admirable flick, largely thanks to a well-told plot and a cast of characters that the viewer can keep track of. Oh, yeah, it’s pretty funny as well.
My rating is 8 outta 10.