[Header Image: Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc and Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera | Lionsgate]
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Seriously, I think Knives Out is way better if you go into it not knowing anything at all. Like most mysteries, it’s a lot more entertaining not to have the answers prior so if you haven’t seen it, don’t read this review. That being said, you can find a spoiler-free review over on my letterboxd account.
“It’s a weird case from the start. A case with a hole in the centre. A doughnut.”
At the time of writing this, I have just finished watching Knives Out. I don’t always like to write these reviews immediately after, preferring to wait a few hours at least, but this one just felt appropriate. I’ll start by saying this, I enjoyed this movie very much and I’ll most likely re-watch it again sometime in the future.
With this being a modern-day whodunit, I knew going in that it was at least going to be fun. Even besides that, the cast alone was enough to grab my attention and make me want to watch it. That being said, the performances were all wonderful and meshed well with the over-dramatised nature running throughout the movie. Both of those things helped to bring the whole modern-day whodunit side to life but I actually felt like it could have been more over-the-top.
I really loved the uses of different camera angles when new details were revealed to us, like the two separate times we see Joni (Toni Collette) coming upstairs to check on Harlan (Christopher Plummer) and Marta (Ana de Armas) or when we see more of Harlan’s argument with Ransom (Chris Evans) over his will. Even though we were given new information each time a scene was repeated, the change in camera angle adds to that new viewpoint within the story. On top of that, I love the way things are recounted, like when we see Harlan’s plan after the medication is seemingly mixed up and particularly Blanc explaining what happened at the end.
The problem I do have is that a lot of that slightly over-dramatised vibe got a little lost in places. Now, I wouldn’t say that Knives Out is complex by any means. It’s not impossible to guess what happens at certain times, even long before it’s revealed, and it doesn’t require a lot of thinking on the part of the audience. None of this is necessarily a downside. It is a very simple A to B type of plot. While there are some twists and turns, like finding out about the mixed up medication, Harlan’s will, and the blackmail, it never feels like there’s too much going on. Upon a first watch, the script does seem really tight and it feels like there was always a goal (the end reveal) in mind. It’s even a little smart in places, like how Blanc talks about dogs being the best judge of character and when Ransom shows up at the house, the dogs all bark loudly at him and jump up at him. So really, there’s nothing wrong with the writing. As it stands, it’s good. There’s great dialogue and an easy to follow plot with wonderful pacing but generally, it doesn’t feel like it takes any major risks.
This movie is really fun to watch things unfold and there are so many wonderful performances that bring each character to life. Every single one seems perfectly cast and I would say that everyone got just enough screen time. Sure, I wanted more of Harlan and his relationship with Marta and I would have liked even more of her interacting with Blanc and various members of the Thrombey family but that’s mostly because I’m greedy. Really, we got just enough of everyone and the right amount of exposure to the different dynamics. It never felt like any time was being particularly wasted.
Except, as I said before, I wish it had been a little more dramatic and over-the-top and that’s where I think it could have taken more of a risk. This movie is ridiculous in places. A prime example being the way Marta’s inability to lie is used throughout or that long-winded speech about doughnut holes from Blanc. They’re both great as plot devices, particularly the former, but they’re also really ridiculous in the first place. Despite that though, it works. There were many times where I wished it would lean more into that side and the overall aesthetic it was building up. In a lot of ways, it did. Again, the performances were really top-notch and the movie is visually pleasing to watch, showing us that it is a modern-day setting but also capturing a dramatised old-timey aesthetic through colour, clothing, and the main set of the mansion. However, that being said, I wanted more of that long-winded recounting of events or those scene changes once new information was revealed to us. I wanted it to be more ridiculous.
As I mentioned before, the script does feel very tight and deliberate — there was even that callback to the blood on Marta’s shoe, something we as an audience see in the moment and while it seems forgotten, Blanc points it out near the end — but I do think the movie would have felt not only more uniform overall but even more unique if it had leant further into its own style. It almost felt too afraid to do so. I’ll definitely need to do another rewatch to be sure but even the twists and turns felt like just enough. At first, I worried about the mix-up of the medicine being revealed so early but of course, we discover it was a lot more complex than that and that it was merely only a smaller part of the overall picture. In that regard, technically, there isn’t a lot wrong with this movie, it is well done and does deserve a lot of the praise it gets, I just wish it went full force because it does feel like there is hesitation.
I can’t entirely fault it. Despite the hesitation, there was obviously a lot of consideration during the creation of this and I would say Knives Out does end satisfyingly enough. While I would have loved more of this movie, that final shot of Marta on the balcony, sipping from her mug, while the family are all outside (and physically beneath her for once) was a perfect way to end things.
Now, I know from the bulk of this review it probably sounds like I didn’t enjoy this movie but believe me, I did and I consider it a favourite. The only reason I’m even mentioning the downsides for me is because it was so close to being perfect and I think it really highlights the strengths of this movie to know it was still an incredibly wonderful watch regardless of those downsides. I just think it missed that chance of an extra push if it had just gone beyond that tight script and had a bit more fun with the more ridiculous elements.
I am curious to see if it holds up on a re-watch now that I have all the answers but even with any flaws and drawbacks, this was still a great experience and I do think, so long as it holds up enough after the first viewing, this will be a fun movie to watch no matter how many times you see it.
(Speaking of, if you have seen it multiple times, feel free to let me know how that went and if your opinions changed upon a second viewing! Although, generally, just let me know your opinions regardless, I’m curious.)
Rating: ★★★★½ /5