❝Just the thought of lying makes me puke.❞
My rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2
After many months of wanting to watch this movie, I’m glad to inform that, yesterday, I finally got the chance to witness Rian Johnson’s Knives Out. I do have to say that after The Last Jedi, I did not have the highest hopes for Knives Out, as I was scared it might have a lot of the same problems that the Star Wars prequel did. Since people were calling Johnson the “master of subverting expectations”, and I did not agree with that opinion after watching The Last Jedi, I was intrigued by how he would handle a murder-mystery film, which, by definition, should subvert its audience’s expectations. To my delight, Knives Out was a story that I thoroughly enjoyed, and which surprised me at every twist and turn.
The movie follows the lives of a large cast of characters who discover that their 85-year-old relative, Harlan Thrombey, was recently found dead. Each character is instantly considered a suspect, and, thanks to some amazing editing, we get to see what each person was up to on the night of the death. The film starts out as somewhat of a whodunit-muder-mystery-esque story, and we quickly discover that each character has some sort of motivation or reason to want Harlan dead. A detective known as Mr. Blanc is called upon to try and solve the case, and a series of events from the day Harlan died begins to unravel.
What I loved about this movie is pretty much what everyone else adores about it as well, but I’ll go over it anyway. First of all, I thought that the majority of the performances were phenomenal, and were all extremely believable within the context of the film. Each character felt like they could be a real person with realistic goals and intentions, which added a huge level of verisimilitude to the story. I must say, I thought it was neat that they cast a latina actress to play Marta, who was one of my favorite characters from the entire film. She had her little quirks, with what her inability to lie without throwing up, but was a multi-faceted woman who simply found herself in an absurd situation. Her genuine kindness and innate urge to help others was what made her so lovable for me, and I think it’s impossible not to have your heart won over by her.
Aside from the amazing cast of characters, it’s obvious that the storyline had a huge part to play in Knives Out. Its ever-changing plot had me on the edge of my seat, wanting, no, needing to know what the outcome of the movie would be. I applaud the fact that Knives Out wasn’t afraid to implement themes of xenophobia and immigration into its arc as well, and I thought that they were not only gracefully handled, but truly did add to the story, and weren’t there just for filler. A scene that truly stood out to me was when a couple of the family members were arguing about immigration laws during Harlan’s birthday party, and some clearly had a negative point of view about it. One of the characters suddenly asks for Marta’s opinion on the matter, but when they bring her into the room to talk to the group, the family talks over her anyway and she never gets a chance to speak her mind. It’s interesting because the audience never really knows whether Marta would’ve spoken out about it in the first place, being the respectful woman that she was, but it’s spectacular to see that conversation weave into later portions of the film. For example, many of the Thrombey family members remind Marta of how kind they were to her, and how they deserve to get the same treatment from her, but Marta is unable to word her opinion on the subject when the entire family harasses her about it. Marta is fully willing to help individual members of the family when they ask for her help, but knows that the majority of the Thrombey’s don’t legitimately see her as a “part of the family”, despite claiming to, as evidenced by the derogatory comments about immigrants thrown around as if they were nothing. A scene like that is often enough to make me genuinely respect a movie, and it adds to its value for me.
Another aspect that I noticed once the film was over was how subtle moments or throwaway lines hinted at the bigger picture on several occasions. I love when books do this; practically handing you the answer you’re looking for directly to you, but knowing that you most likely haven’t put the pieces of the puzzle together quite yet. The story is waving them right in front of you, but they’re so casually tossed around that they’re not so easy to pick out as important in the grand scheme of things. Although Knives Out is, of course, not a book, it felt like one in the way that it handled these little hints and clues. It reminded me a lot of Cassandra Clare’s Lady Midnight, where we get to know the character responsible for the villainy very early on, and though many hints are given about them being evil, it isn’t properly revealed until the plot nears its end. I, for one, did not expect the villain in Lady Midnight, and had a hard time realizing who it was in Knives Out as well. I honestly think that Knives Out would make a remarkable novel, and was shocked to find out that it wasn’t based on one specifically. Though it clearly has elements inspired by authors like Agatha Christie, Knives Out is fundamentally unique.
I’ve been giving a lot of praise to this movie, but, if you read the rating above, you’ll know that I ranked it at three and and half stars. From a movie-making perspective, elements like screenwriting and score are always important in a film, but, as I don’t know too much about these, I can only say that I found the camerawork to be delightful. From a casual-viewer perspective, I think that three and a half stars is a valid rating for Knives Out. I chose this number because I, sadly, did get the sensation that the movie dragged on a bit. I understand that the slower parts of the film were still important and probably had a lot of value production-wise, but they weren’t exactly my cup of tea. I almost fell asleep at one point, which is probably not a good indicator that the movie was great. I felt that so many elements were repeated throughout the duration of the film, and I wanted something more exciting or action-packed to happen. I did love following Marta around though, so it wasn’t an entirely awful experience, but at times I got lost in what somebody was saying or got bored and sleepy due to the tone of their voice. I also am not the best at keeping up with an exceedingly numerous cast of characters, and sometimes found myself forgetting who was who and how they were related to Harlan. As of now, I can’t name a fairly large chunk of the characters, as a few weren’t memorable at all and had basic, dull names.
While I do believe that Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is a tightly-knit, well-organized, and superb film, I do realize that it has a couple of drawbacks that prevent me from giving it a high rating. It’s undoubtable that this movie was expertly made, and had so much creative work put into it, so I wouldn’t shy away from watching it just from this review. With high scores across the board on websites like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb, Knives Out was a lovingly crafted, special story that I think will be hard to forget.
Thanks for reading!