Knives Out

Knives Out ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I almost needed to have my arm twisted to go see this. As soon as I heard this was made by Rian Johnson I actively wanted to avoid it. I do not trust that guy.

Well, Mr Expectation Subverter managed to subvert expectations in a genuinely useful way this time, coz this film isn’t just just good, it is also very satisfying.. despite my readiness to hate-watch it.. and despite someone saying the words “well that didn’t go as expected” during one scene.

The genius move it made was to cast one of my favourite actresses of the moment Ana de Armas (who I had no idea was in this) in a leading role and turn a potential hatefest into more of a lovefest. Even better that she played a character so seemingly perfect and innocent. Like the most perfect character you ever seen on screen, and then put her into that situation. That’s entertainment.

I knew this has a big ensemble cast but I’d been deliberately avoiding who was in it, so all I knew was Daniel Craig. So, it was kinda like, oh and oh(!) and oh! every time someone else showed up on screen. And then Daniel Craig spoke and I wondered if Matthew McConnauhey had been busy that day.

The whodunnit mystery seems pretty tight. I can’t really fault it, though I might try in the spoiler section, but it has a quite original take on this type of material and didn’t feel too formulaic at all. This type of thing is generally better suited to watching on TV but I’m glad I had my arm twisted and don’t mind the minimal donation to the Rian Johnson benevolent fund made on my behalf. This is the sort of movie he should have been doing all along. Please stick to it.

Spoiler Notes
Of course it goes without saying you should watch the film before reading anything I write in the Spoilers section..

It should have been obvious whodunnit as soon as they showed up on screen. It’s totally expected RJ would take Mr Goody2Shoes and subvert his usual character. It’s funny how early on they didn’t show his face (I dunno if it’s common knowledge Chris Evans is in it), but from the early scenes it looks like it is Sam Rockwell. Then there is one slightly slo-mo scene that is more supposed to be focusing on Christopher Plummer but it becomes obvious that is also Chris Evans. Blink and you could miss it. It’s a while later before the full reveal is there.

I loved how utterly pure and innocent Ana’s character (Marta) was, so much so that she has a condition that causes her to throw up if she lies. In all honesty I don’t find that trait to be entirely unbelievable with some people. Actually, I’m pretty much exactly the same as Marta IRL 🤢 Ask anyone 🤮But what works so well here is that the plot, almost the writer of the plot, is then framing her for the murder, and forcing her to go against her nature and cover up behaviour which seems incriminating. It’s hilarious as she tries to cover her tracks even though she isn’t the murderer. Just because of how suspicious it looks.

I can’t say I was actively trying to figure out whodunnit. In fact half the time with murder mysteries these days I assume no-one did it and the person isn’t even dead. Which was entirely plausible here. Despite us seeing him commit suicide but only through the eyes of Marta, who despite our believing she is pure and innocent, there is always a touch of doubt with such characters. And the plot plays that up perfectly too, when she gets the inheritance. Very interesting to see everyone turn on her so quickly. Interesting to me because I am so alike, you know.

So, while I wasn’t into predicting whodunnit or how.. I did predict two things very accurately. One is that the blank letter had invisible ink on it. And two, that Marta would vomit all over Captain America’s sweater. I loved the ending with the spring knife - a genuine didn’t-expect-that moment, which is what it should be all about. Perfect ending with the mug too.

Some random thoughts:
- I thought the young Nazi guy would have had a bigger part to play by the end.
- Rian Johnson and his social media references. If he could put that into Star Wars I bet he would. Oh wait, he did.
- Rian Johnson and his self-awareness, bringing out a film called Knives Out at the same time as the new Star Wars film.
- Including a Game of Thrones throne, just like the new Star Wars film did, except more so.
- At two moments in the film, I realised I’d muddled up two characters, first was the housemaid and Marta (like right at the start I’d misremembered it wasn’t Marta who found the body, and only realised they were different characters when in a scene together), and then when the two older non-Jamie Lee Curtis women were on a couch together.
- Actually I missed about 10 mins of questioning and character establishment near the start due to a mouth-open popcorn muncher in near vicinity. It wasn’t until Ana de Armas was back on-screen that I was able to focus again. (PS: I frustratingly cannot remember Ana de Armas’s name from one second to the next. I have to look it up every time. Ana de Aramis. Ana de Vernay. Ana de Aerosol. Seriously I cannot keep it straight in my head!).
- IIRC Marta is from Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil depending when it’s said, and IIDRC then I guess that’s the point(?)!
- The scene in that dingy basement sorta place, with the bribing housemaid was perhaps the weakest in the film as it was giving a “huh?” reaction as much as anything else. Sure it all made sense eventually, but needed some refinement for the first time round.

Does it hang together...?
- here’s my doubt, Harlan commits suicide way too readily. Should he not have been starting to feel the extra dosage effects before slitting his own throat. (Obviously it’s a remarkable coincidence the drugs have been “switched” twice but assuming coincidences are not real plot flaws). I guess response to this is that the effects of correct dosage and overdosage are similar until after falling asleep.
- What about the 10 mins time till he’s supposedly dead then? She has to listen to his plan (take it all in whilst in a panicked state), then leave the house, then return all within that 10 min window. And if it took longer than 10 mins wouldn’t that give Harlan pause for thought if this is really gonna kill him?
- I feel the whole plot revolves around the viscosity of morphine. I’ll accept it as presented but if I find out otherwise then the rating will be downgraded.
- Why did our intrepid Columbo not ask Marta directly about the blood on her shoe? And how likely is it Marta wouldn’t have spotted that blood herself given it’s been a week.
- Ok, I’m struggling to find real incriminating evidence that it doesn’t hold together. Someone help me out here.. I can’t let Rian Johnson off the hook that easily..

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