“Physical evidence can tell a clear story with forked tongue.”-Knives Out
Release Date: 2019. Dir: Rian Johnson
Google Summary: When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey dies just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc arrives at his estate to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Thrombey’s untimely demise.
Original Rating: 10/10
Short Explanation: A colorful film with a stellar cast, beautifully written film that has Daniel Craig (doing a half-decent Southern accent), Chris Evans (who makes a more convincing villain than hero) and Christopher Plummer (without all the singing) tying together an all around wonderful murder mystery.
Long Explanation: This movie was at the top of my “must watch” list for a very long time for the simple reason that I was so attracted the colorful poster. So, I’ll start there. There was a stark contrast between the colorful poster and the actual film. I think this is meant to be symbolic of the fact that there are a plethora of colorful characters but the content of the movie is actually pretty dark considering it is a murder mystery. The characters are all vastly different with the only connecting factor being their socioeconomic status and family background.
This movie primarily struck me as a satire towards “old money”. The family is filled with people who have a sense of entitlement that is so grandiose it almost strikes the viewer as comical. The family is so obsessed with having their family fortune and being able to continue to live their wealthy lives and they completely ignore the patriarch of the family. The irony in this movie comes with the family’s interactions towards the maid that is hired for Harlan Thrombey, Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas). The family can’t seem to remember where Marta is from, making a comical point out of inconsistently listening South American countries when referring to Marta and her family. This point was interesting to me especially when the family is often offering to take care of Marta, until she comes into all of Harlan’s money. As long as Marta is below the Thrombey family, she will always be welcome into the family.
Continuing with the characters, there are two characters that are meant to satirize the two American political parties. Meg Thrombey (Katherine Langford) and Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell) are symbols of extremes of the Democratic and Republican parties respectively. I add this part because usually I am wary of political commentary that is as explicit as it was in Knives Out, but I thought that the joking and commentary was tasteful and didn’t take away from the movie or ruin the story; it simply was just another part added for comedic relief.
The last two character that I want to discuss is Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) and Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans). These are the two characters that closely surround Marta. Blanc is an investigator who was hired under mysterious circumstances to find out what really happened to Harlan Thrombey. Drysdale is a member of the Thrombey family and he is known as a self-proclaimed black sheep. These two characters grow close to Marta under the guise of trying to help her and I find that both actors do a really good job of trying to convince Marta that they are the good guy and each have their hidden motives that are so subtly interwoven throughout their lines that I found myself impressed even at the conclusin.
This leads me to another point that made Knives Out a really successful mystery movie. In several whodunnit movies, I find that the clues are often found in the background and the dialogue is really an attention grabber. The dialogue and any obvious action is meant to confuse the watcher and toss around suspicion around the different characters. Here, any obvious action was meant to throw off suspicion, but in this movie, words and subtle actions were the real giveaway. The actual culprit has subtle nuances that aren’t a dead giveaway but point to this person. You almost want to trust this character, but they do prove too good to be true. When the mystery is solved at the end, the explanation does makes sense and you will understand exactly how it makes sense once you watch the movie. My advice is to pay close attention to what the characters are saying, everything has a double meaning.
In terms of solving the mystery, I really do like Benoit Blanc as a detective. He is not the kind of detective that will overlook the obvious culprit even if it appears that he has. Daniel Craig’s southern accent adds quite a bit to the character and he makes a convincing detective with his cool and collected manner. I definitely found that the positioning of characters in relation to Blanc said much about who he was investigating even if it wasn’t explicit; he was always watching the characters and the position was a clear indicator of who he had ruled out and who he was still investigating. Aside from Blanc, there are a lot of triangles (in terms of where the characters are standing in relation to each other) in this movie which I believe is purposefully limited to just the Thrombey family in order to prove that while they may fight amongst each other, they all have a strong support system.
Now, I’ve spoken about this movie in terms of being a wonderful mystery but this movie is truly meant to be funny and it is. A few years ago I learned about different types of comedy and this is probably one of the more sophisticated forms of comedy such as black comedy or in some cases, character comedy. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t places where slapstick or cringe comedy aren’t used. Marta has a condition where whenever she is lying, she throws up which is often used to the benefit of the villains or people interrogating her. I think that the addition of the comedy adds to the watchability of the movie, something that is important to a murder mystery because they can often become really boring if they’re too straightforward or confusing if there are too many twists. The comedy makes the movie fly by because if you’re not intently watching each character, you’re laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of this family. In this case, watchability proves to be important because of how intricate the mystery; if the movie wasn’t watchable, then it wouldn’t have been as successful as it was.
Afterthought Rating: 10/10
Overall Conclusion: In conclusion, this movie is at the top of my favorite mystery movies for the simple reason that it is beautifully complex. This movie doesn’t fit into any one genre or focus on one convention of mystery. Instead, this movie takes every convention of a successful mystery and twists to create a thrill ride that leaves the viewers gleefully confused throughout and wonderfully satisfied at the end.