“Knives Out” is a thrilling mystery film filled with deception, compelling characters, and intriguing motives.
The story centers around the Thromby family, a wealthy East Coast family that garnered its fortune through writing. Harlam Thromby, the head of the family, was a successful crime novelist and started his own publishing company. Although the family comes together at the start of the film to celebrate a birthday, each member hides their own secrets.
Early in the film, Harlan Thrombey dies. Some suspect suicide, but others, like detective Benoit Blanc (who was hired by a member of the family discretely) suspect sinister foul play.
Director and screenplay writer Rian Johnson explores each character’s motives as Blanc moves through his questioning. This technique draws the audience into the film by placing them into the position of a detective. With impeccably timed flashbacks and intricate details, Johnson draws you into this mysterious whodunnit from the very beginning.
The main setting of the film itself is something to admire. A beautiful, grand mansionsits on vast grounds within the woods. Johnson did a remarkable job of incorporating the location of the Thromby house into the mystery, as well as using it as a gathering point for the family and the investigation. The setting of the film gives the audience a clear look into the life of the Thromby family, deepening their understanding of character’s motives.
In addition to the setting, the acting in the film was particularly exquisite. Harlan Thromby’s rebellious grandson Ransom (played by Chris Evans) does an excellent job of playing a mysterious but insightful supporting character. In addition, Ana de Armas portrays Marta Cabrera (Harlan’s caretaker) exceptionally well, drawing the audience into the protagonist’s struggle and garnering sympathy along the way.
As the movie advances and clues present themselves, Johnson continues to develop each character extremely well. Each twist and turn that arises is expertly placed, so as not to confuse, only intrigue.
A focus point for all members of the family after Harlan’s death is his fortune. His wealth, company and home are all high value items to be inherited. Tension grows within the family as fingers are pointed and each character anxiously waits for the reading of Harlan’s will.
Despite the dark plot, there are spots of humor within the film. One of Harlan’s grandchildren, for example, is a teenage boy the rest of the family take great pleasure in criticizing, giving a lighter edge to a darker film.
As the film nears its end, the plot grows more intense and the race to find the killer intensifies. Throughout the film, Johnson does a magnificent job of allowing the viewer to come up with their own theories as to who the murderer is and how they pulled off their feat. Detective Blanc’s theories are kept to a minimum until the very end, where a stunning conclusion reveals itself.
The ending of the film is a bit confusing and requires a bit of additional thought, but is quite satisfying once understood. Overall, “Knives Out” was an exhilarating film to watch due to its fascinating and mysterious plot and unique characters.