"Knives Out" is a modern update on the classic "who-dunnit" genre. I know, we just had an update of Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Orient Express." But while that story was always a cheat, the ingenious "Knives Out" actually plays fair with the audience while it piles on the surprises. 
 
As one character points out, the story is set up like a "Clue" board in an old family mansion where someone winds up dead - supposedly by suicide - but, of course, everyone has a possible motive for wanting the victim gone and reasons to stab others in the back. 
 
In comes Daniel Craig as private detective Benoit Blanc, a southern gentleman helping the police but who is also a bit of a mystery 
himself. 
 
 
The all-star ensemble cast is clearly having great time (Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, Toni Collette, et al.) some of them relishing playing against type (Chris Evans). The characters have great names like Ransom Drysdale and Walt Thrombey and it's a blast watching them play off each other with darkly funny and razor sharp wit.
 
That's thanks to a crackerjack screenplay by director Rian Johnson, who has written clever-to-brilliant genre pictures with "Brick" and "Looper" and either made the best "Star Wars" movie with "The Last Jedi" or ruined it forever depending on whom you ask. 
 
Even though we're familiar with this type of who-dunnit story, "Knives Out" doesn't always behave as we'd expect. It appears to give away the game midway through only to keep taking turns. The picture is also technically impressive with its editing revealing secrets and hopping through time.  It's a marvelous thing to experience. 
 
If "Knives Out" is a hit, as it should be, I hope Johnson writes more Detective Benoit mysteries for all-star casts to play. But this first one will be hard to beat.
 
EPPLER'S RATING: * * * * 
 

RATING SCALE

* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year
* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles
* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing
* * Mediocre - You can do better
* Awful - The worst, an insult to movies