On the face of it, Knives Out is hardly ground-breaking.
Agatha Christie was writing country-house murder mysteries a hundred years ago – where a wealthy patriarch or matriarch is found dead in suspicious circumstances, surrounded by people who may or may not benefit financially from their demise, and where the local constabulary is assisted by a celebrity detective.
But it is the country house genre with a twist – in fact with so many twists as to make a cork-screw look positively straight. And it manages both to suck us in to really wanting to know "who dun it" and to relish the plot-twists so much and so often as to be laugh out loud hilarious.
Front and centre is Marta (Ana de Armas), the nurse who looks after the about to be deceased Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Everyone loves the young immigrant – at least until the reading of the will.
The police show up, as does a famous detective (Daniel Craig in a role which could earn him an Oscar). The twists begin, as does the first of many flashbacks as theory after theory, and plot possibility after plot possibility spin their convoluted webs. Greed, blackmail, generosity, deception, distrust, prejudice and veniality mix and mingle as the battle rages for financial and personal survival. And it also manages to be a perceptive commentary on contemporary American society.
Daniel Craig owes more than a little to Sherlock Holmes and Hercules Poirot and he radiates sheer enjoyment of his part. And Marta manages above all else to be palpably kind, and totally convincing in her eccentric incapacity to tell a lie without being physically sick.
The movie manages to be engaging, and frustrating – just when you think you have understood who did what the perspective shifts and you wonder just how much more you can take.
If you see only one mystery movie this year – make it this one.