Movie Spotlight: Knives Out

Knives Out is a 2019 American mystery film written, produced and directed by Rian Johnson. Described as a modern take on the whodunit murder mystery genre, the film follows a family gathering gone horribly awry, after the family patriarch’s death leads a master detective to investigate. The film stars an ensemble cast, including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.

Knives Out had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019, and is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on November 27, 2019, by Lionsgate.

Plot:

Wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey invites his extended family to his remote mansion on his 85th birthday in hopes of reuniting them all due to the family’s dysfunctional history. The next morning, however, Harlan’s housekeeper Fran finds him dead in his study.

The police, along with experienced private eye Benoit Blanc, are called in to investigate. Throughout a series of interviews with members of the family, secrets are revealed as well as possible motives for murder. Richard, Harlan’s son-in-law, was discovered to have cheated on his wife Linda, Harlan’s daughter, with Harlan threatening to expose him. Joni, Harlan’s daughter-in-law and wife of his deceased son Neil, was exposed by Harlan after she stole $400,000 from him by sourcing duplicate checks meant for her daughter, Megan, to a private bank account. Walter, Harlan’s youngest son, was fired from his father’s publishing company during the birthday party. Ransom, Linda and Richard’s son, had discovered he’d been cut out of the will entirely.

It is then revealed that after the party, Harlan’s caretaker, Marta Cabrera, took Harlan upstairs to give him his nightly medication. After beginning to play a game of Go, Harlan jokingly knocked the board off of the table before Marta could give him his medication. Marta picked up the bottles and injected him, but realized that she accidentally gave him 100 milligrams of morphine. To protect his friend, Harlan gave her strict instructions on how to avoid suspicion before slitting his own throat, leaving Marta shocked. Marta then drove away, parked her car, and returned to the house through the gate entrance, before climbing up the trellis on the side of the house and wearing Harlan’s coat and hat to confuse Walter in his peripheral vision, who had seen Marta leave, ruling her out as a suspect. The police question Marta, as she is a trustworthy source due to her inability to lie without vomiting, but she makes it through her interrogation without fail. Suspecting foul play, Blanc is determined to find the true cause of death.

The next day, Blanc, along with Marta and the police, search the house and its surroundings for clues, many of which Marta is able to cover up before the detectives can find them. Since it is the day of Harlan’s will reading, the family anxiously awaits the reveal, and are shocked to hear that Harlan left everything to Marta, including his inheritance, the house, and his company. Despite the family’s kindness to Marta the night prior, they quickly turn on her but Ransom helps her escape. Ransom and Marta then go to a local restaurant where Ransom coaxes Marta into telling him everything. Read more…

Critical Response:

On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 96% based on 136 reviews, with an average rating of 8.53/10. The website’s critics’ consensus reads: “Knives Out sharpens old murder-mystery tropes with a keenly assembled suspense outing that makes brilliant use of writer-director Rian Johnson’s stellar ensemble.” 

Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 85 out of 100, based on reviews from 26 critics, indicating “universal acclaim”.

David Rooney, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, described the film as an “ingeniously plotted, tremendously entertaining and deviously irreverent crowd-pleaser” and “a treat from start to finish”, praising the film’s script, the throwbacks to the murder mysteries of the 1970s, and the actors’ performances.

Dana Stevens of Slate wrote “Knives Out knows exactly what kind of movie it is: a sendup of twisty murder mysteries with all-star ensemble casts that also loves and respects that silly tradition.” F

or The AV Club, A.A. Dowd called the film “madly entertaining” and “an ingenious sleight-of-hand crowdpleaser”. 

David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film an A-, writing “Johnson has devised a murder-mystery that’s eager to defy your expectations, but unwilling to betray your trust. The film may be more smart than stylish, and it may opt for a reasonable outcome over an overwhelmingly shocking one, but Knives Out doesn’t let the element of surprise ruin a good story”

Find it in Theaters:

Lexington Exchange Movies 12

AMC Lexington Park 6

Flagship Premium Cinemas, Calvert Village

Xscape Theaters, Brandywine

AMC St. Charles Town Center 9


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