I finally got around to watch KNIVES OUT, which I completely missed when it was out in theaters last year, and it took me a while to make time to stream it.
Everyone has compared it to an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, with some sprinkles of CLUE (1985), and referring to it as a whodunit. But I don’t really think of it as an actual whodunit in the traditional sense — it does, however, feel like one of those murder mystery throwbacks from the 70s.
At the center of the story, we have a renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombley (Christopher Plummer), who, the morning after his 85th birthday, is found dead in his mansion. Harlan’s dysfunctional family gathers around the family estate prepping for the funeral and waiting for the reading of the will. While at the same time, world-famous detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously summoned to join the police investigation regarding Harlan’s death — and everyone seems to be a suspect.
This is not a politically subtle film — We have a bunch of New England WASPs engaging with some relevant cultural and sociopolitical issues of our times. Most notably, the manner in how they interact with Marta (Ana De Armas), Harlan’s young nurse/caretaker. The family pays lip service to Marta at every chance they get, telling her that they will take good care of her and say how much they love her and appreciate her. But none of them seems to remember which country she is from, as they keep naming different countries when referencing her birthplace. Once the family learns that Marta is a beneficiary in Harlan’s will, their true colors come out.
This is an essential film for these politically charged times we are living through. Particularly, in our age of the anti-hero; Here we have a story where the good triumphs and the bad get what they deserve, where examples of white entitlement are presented in the form of a multi-generational family that has benefited directly from their social status. Their xenophobic worldview is coming into direct collision with Marta, an immigrant character who, in a way, represents a new version of the United States and the culture shift this country is currently undergoing.
The Thrombleys appear to be fixated on maintaining their status quo at all costs. They have never really earned or achieved anything on their own without Harlan’s financial assistance of some kind. We get to see how the family’s projection of success is a mirage — Harlan’s wealth had shackled his family and prevented them from achieving success. Removing them from his will was Harlan’s way of freeing them so they could forge their path and achieve success on their own.
In a way, this feels very much like a rare film when compared to most mainstream movies made nowadays. Especially since this is an original story and not an adaptation, it tackles entitlement culture, immigration, and the meaning of what being an American truly means. And it does so in a direct yet satirical and playful manner, which I found admirable. Kudos to Rian Johnson for writing and directing such a complex film. I almost forgave him for how he treated Luke Skywalker.
The final shot of the movie is just perfect; it captures the whole theme of the film beautifully; There, we have Marta, this immigrant girl, standing on the mansion’s balcony looking down at the entire family, as they all look up in disbelief…
KNIVES OUT was a refreshing and entertaining movie-watching experience — The right balance of comedy, drama, and lots of tension. It is well written, character-driven, with all-around top-notch performances from the all-star ensemble cast—an exceptional film.
Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿
KNIVES OUT (2019)