Knives out, a modern take on the classic whodunnit? genre, was written and directed by Rian Johnson, yeah I know, he wrecked Star Wars, but trust me it’s leagues above The Last Jedi. Where The Last Jedi divded an entire dedicated fanbase by subverting expectations in an inherantly bad way, Knives Out does so in a way, you not only didn’t see coming, it becomes a better story for it. Knives Out is the story of the death of critically acclaimed mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey ( Christopher Plummer ), whose star studded family is under investigation for his possible murder.
Harlan had a somewhat big family, they are:
Linda ( Jamie Lee Curtis )-his daughter, a Real estate tycoon
Richard ( Don Johnson )-Linda’s husband
Walt ( Michael Shannon )-Harlan’s son, who ran his Father’s publishing company
Donna ( Riki Lindhome )-Walt’s wife
Joni ( Toni Collette )-Widow of Harlan’s disceaced child
Ranson ( Chris Evans )-his grandson, son of Linda and Richard who never had a job, yet Harlan always accepted it
Meg ( Katherine Langford )-Harlan’s granddaughter, daughter of Joni, a college student
Jacob ( Jaeden Martell )-Harlan’s grandson, Walt’s son, who according to his own Father, is “a literal Nazi”. Minor character
& Great Nana ( K Callan )-Harlan’s most likely senile mother, who is probably over 100 years old. She doesn’t say or do much.
Also, there’s this nurse, Marta ( Ana de Armas ) whose family is from somewhere in South America. Who also acted as a friend for Harlan and is considered by the Thrombey’s to be basically family
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Investigating Harlan’s possible murder is police Detective Troy Archer ( Lakeith Stanfield ) and Benoit Blanc ( Daniel Craig ) a semi-famous private investigator, who was hired by someone within the family. The first 20 minutes or so, are those two interviewing the family, minus Great Nana, Ranson and Jacob. Despite doing a good job in these scenes, I can’t help but think how bizarre Craig’s pretend American accent is. It’s not quite Southern, West Coast, East Coast, Texan or anything really. Almost a little DiCaprio-esque, but not quite. With no leads, Arthur assumes it must have been a suicide, James Bond knowing there was foul play.
In a flashback scene, it’s revealed what happened. Instead of the detective gathering everyone around at the end of the movie, coming up with an elaborate motive and an equally elaborate Scooby Doo style plan, Johnson decided to do this; Marta was playing a board game with Harlan. After winning she gives him his daily medications. Accidentally giving him 100 miligrams of morphine, instead of three. Which would result in certain death.
Knowing this was a mixup, on her behalf, Harlan quickly realizes somebody set her up. Not wanting any harm to come to her or her immigrant family, who had not yet officially become citizens, he comes up with an elaborate plan, so that Marta couldn’t possibly be the killer. Given his years of experience as a mystery writer, even such an acclaimed novellist as himself would have to consider it one of his best works. After this, the film turns from a whodunnit’ to a “How the hell is she ever going to get away with this? This was genuinally one of the most genuis twists that I believe have ever been done in the history of cinema. The common tropes of the genre being turned on it’s back, all to make a modern masterpiece. Seriously, please watch this movie before I spoil everything for you.
Right before the will reading, read by none other than Master Yoda ( Frank Oz ), Ranson shows up. Immediatly coming off as the black sheep of the family, his massive almost divalike ego not making him very sympathetic. In fact, the family pieces together that Ranson is excluded from the will. The will states: All of Harlan’s posssesions shall go to Marta. The family instantly becoming infuriated with her. Ranson taking her away from them.
He takes her to a diner, dislodging his ego, where she tells him exactly what happened. After this, the media hear the story. A large group of reporters outside her house. Walt goes to her to confront her, to sway her into giving up her will, so that him and his family will not essentially br broke. At this point the movie turns a little generic. There’s a police chase, a cold blooded murder frame, not amazing, but almost every movie has some points that are pretty much filler. She also tells Blanc the whole story. Besides, the payback later on makes it worth it.
Marta returns to the mansion. Taking Ranson to the side, along with the officers. In a wonderfully done twist, Blanc reveals the entirety of how Ranson did it, and almost got away with it to. I won’t say how exactly, but there are several clues hidden throughout the film. Like in The Prestige, this is one of those films where every single detail can have a massive payout later in the film. Ranson is arrested, in front of the family. Marta now owning the entire house and Harlan’s fortune. She stands on the balcony sipping from a “My house, my rules, my coffee” mug. The End.
Knives Out was a brilliantly done modern take on one of the most classic movie genres of all time. The first movie I had ever seen from Johnson was the Last Jedi, which with every fiber of my being I despise. He was passionate sure, but he failed with that movie on such a royal level that I genuinally hated him until I saw Looper, followed by this. Rian, I will never forgive your terrible disgrace to the Star Wars franchise, but let me apologize for considering you to be one of the worst filmmakers of all time. You aren’t forgiven, but your no longer hated. You are actually a very good filmmaker, who I now look forward to seeing more movies of in the future. To all readers who hated TLJ as much as I did, do yourself a favor, give both this and Looper a chance.
The film also did a great job at never making it clear who the real suspect is until basically the very end. Nearly every character having some motivation. Some big, some small. On top of that, even though I’ve already raved about the plot subversions, this was done so incredibly well. If you’re looking for a good mystery story, then I honestly can’t recommed this movie enough. I’d give this film an 8.5/10
PS, happy birthday to Christoph Waltz