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Movie Review: “Knives Out”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Knives Out

Theatrical Release: 11/27/2019

Theatrical Release: 11/27/2019

Synopsis

Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) has apparently killed himself. However, the circumstances of his death, and a mysterious anonymous payment, have been enough to catch the attention of a legendary private investigator, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). There was a birthday party for Harlan on the night of his apparent suicide. There were many people in attendance, but his children and his nurse all stayed after the party was over. Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis) has built her own company, much like her father Harlan, but her husband Richard (Don Johnson) has a secret that he does not want his wife to discover. Walt Thrombey (Michael Shannon) runs the publishing company for his father's novels, but has had some heated disputes with his father over the direction of the company. Meanwhile, Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette) has been relying on her father's wealth to put her daughter through college and fears being cut off.

Linda and Richard's son Ransom (Chris Evans) had a heated argument with Harlan during the party, but he was seen leaving the party early, and he did not return. Then there was Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), Harlan's nurse, who stayed late to give Harlan his medicine after the party. While the case seemed like a pretty obvious suicide, the anonymous payment to Benoit Blanc shrouds the whole evening in a cloud of mystery. Harlan had an enormous wealth that makes each of his children and grandchildren potential suspects. Fortunately, Benoit Blanc is an incredibly skilled investigator, who is determined to find the truth of what happened, and he believes Marta Cabrera holds the key to unlocking that truth.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

The Characters (+8pts)

The Vomiting (-3pts)

The Mystery (+8pts)

A Suspect (-2pts)

The Reveal (+6pts)

Ransom (-2pts)

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Pro: The Characters (+8pts)

One of the best things going for this movie was its characters. First, there were the supporting characters, which were Harlan's children (Linda, Walt, Joni, and Linda's husband Richard). This group was made up of a colorful group of characters with various potential motives, over the top personalities, and they each had something to gain (a ton of money) from their father's will in the event of his untimely death. It was an interesting group of characters to see coming together, and it made it very unclear as to who the actual killer was, but the main characters were just as strong.

Daniel Craig did a great job playing the master investigator, Benoit Blanc, and he made it easy to get invested in the mystery—although I will get into that a little later. Then there was Marta Cabrera, the main character, who Ana de Armas did a great job of playing, as she made the main character easy to relate to and sympathize with. Finally, there was Chris Evans as Ransom Drysdale. Chris Evans is an obviously talented actor, but it was still a pleasant surprise to see him play a character so different from Steve Rogers. The filmmakers wanted the viewer to change their opinion of Ransom at various stages of the movie, and Chris Evans played these transitions naturally, and made it such that you could see the character as good or bad, whenever the filmmakers wanted you to do so. This was a movie full of interesting characters played by talented actors who were more than capable of bringing them all to the screen effectively.

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Con: The Vomiting (-3pts)

The whole vomiting thing was simply ridiculous. The main character, Marta, had this disorder that made it such that whenever she lied—or even though of lying—she would throw up. Now I am no doctor, so maybe this is a real thing, but it felt like the filmmakers just made it up to serve as a plot device. It made it such that Benoit Blanc set his sights on her, because Marta was either guilty, or she could help Benoit determine which of the other characters were lying.

I did not like the whole vomiting thing for a few reasons. To start, it was just unrealistic and silly. It also felt like lazy writing, as the filmmakers used it whenever they could not think of another way for the legendary investigator to figure something out. Finally, the filmmakers just used it inconsistently, as Marta was either able to control it or was not able to control it at all—which ever was more convenient for the writers at the time. Did this ruin the movie for me? No, but in an otherwise great movie, this whole thing just felt like a silly, lazy, and unrealistic plot device.

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Pro: The Mystery (+8pts)

I kind of already touched on this while talking about the characters in the movie, but the mystery in this story was an interesting one. Due to the fact that pretty much every character had motive, I could have seen almost any character being the one that did the crime. This meant that I had no idea who the true culprit was. On top of that, the characters were interesting enough that I was invested in finding out what really happened.

Then there was the stipulation of how much money was involved in the will, and not wanting the killer to get away with it. Then there was the portrayal by Daniel Craig, who kept the hunt for the truth interesting. The mystery and the characters were intertwined with each other. As such, if either did not work, both would have suffered greatly, but on the flip side if both worked, then the whole movie would have benefited greatly, and the latter was what happened here.

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Con: A Suspect (-2pts)

Another part of this movie that I thought was pretty ridiculous was what Benoit Blanc and the cops let potential suspects get away with. I understand that they did not think some suspects were the killer, but until they had solved the mystery, there were a lot of things that they let suspects do that they definitely should not. I understand that in order for the plot to keep moving in a certain direction, Benoit and the cops needed to let those suspects do those things. However, if that was the only reason, then this issue was yet another lazily written plot device. Rather than having those suspects be discreet and outsmart the investigator, they just had the investigator let things happen, which was nothing short of ridiculous.

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Pro: The Reveal (+6pts)

One thing I really appreciated in this movie was that the filmmakers did not drag the mystery out longer than it would have played out naturally. Rather than decide that the movie was two hours, so the reveal had to come toward the end of that two hours, the filmmakers had the hindsight to realize that the reveal needed to happen much earlier. This made it such that the mystery never felt boring. The filmmakers pulled the trigger on the reveal while the mystery was still interesting to the audience. They then effectively shifted gears so that the rest of the movie was spent watching the person responsible trying to get away with it (rather than dragging out the part of the movie that was all about figuring out who that was), and it made for a suspenseful and engaging second half of the movie.

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Con: Ransom (-2pts)

I will keep this one brief, but I though Ransom would have been a far more effective character if the filmmakers did not try to play with our opinion of him as many times as they did. They started by making us think he was not a suspect, then they suggested that he might be, then the filmmakers flip flopped a few more times with the character. After a certain point, I sort of stopped caring about which way he would eventually fall. Chris Evans played the part well, and made each of these flips feel as believable as possible, but I think the character would have been far better off with fewer flips.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: A- (90pts)

People had kept telling me to watch this movie, but it kept escaping me, pretty much since it was in theaters. I finally watched it the other day, and I had a really good time with it. The mystery was effective, as the filmmakers did a great job at building up a mystery that I cared about. A big factor in this were the characters involved, as the filmmakers delivered a group of colorful personalities, with each of them being believable potential suspects. Then there were the main characters, who each brought something unique to the table.

Ana de Armas played the main character well, as she delivered all the drama that she needed to, and made Marta an effective and relatable primary protagonist. Then there was Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, who really amplified my interest in the mystery. Finally, there was Chris Evans as Ransom Drysdale, who played the character in a natural and believable way, but I was not a fan of how many times the filmmakers tried to play with our opinion of him. The filmmakers also knew when to pull the trigger on the reveal of the mystery, and spent the second half of the movie delivering a suspenseful chase toward catching the person who was responsible. The movie was not all great, however. There was the ridiculous vomiting thing, the lazy plot device of what Benoit allowed a suspect to do, and there was the redundant flip flopping of our opinion of Ransom. Fortunately, these issues did not have much of an impact on my enjoyment of the movie, as I had a really good time watching this one, and recommend it to anyone looking for a good movie to watch during a night in.