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Getting To The Point: Knives Out

Updated on June 28, 2020


Harlan Thrombey has written his final mystery, passing away on the day he turned 85 years old. Someone thinks that police have reached the wrong conclusion and has hired a private detective to investigate further in the movie Knives Out. That detective is Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), who works with the police detectives to take another look. On the day of his death, Harlan (Christopher Plummer) invited his family to celebrate his big day with him at his mansion. Most of them, though, live off his success. The one who makes her own way is Harlan's daughter, Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), a successful realtor. However, she has an unfaithful husband in Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson) and a son in Ransom (Chris Evans) who assisted his grandfather with research. Harlan's son Walt (Michael Shannon) works at Harlan's company. Harlan's widowed daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette), who fancies herself a lifestyle expert, has been stealing the money intended to pay the tuition of her college-aged daughter Meg (Katherine Langford).

Unknown to any of them, Harlan had kept tabs on all of these activities. Shortly before his passing, he amended his will and fired his family from his payroll. Harlan himself had made some of his intentions known during the party. The sole beneficiary of his wealth, as announced at the reading of his will, is his faithful nurse, Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas). The only way Marta loses the estate is if Blanc and the police determine that she killed Harlan. Instead of treating her as a suspect, Blanc takes Marta into his confidence due to a certain quirk of hers. That doesn't change when Marta admits to giving Harlan a fatal drug overdose because someone had taken the antidote from her nurse's bag. As Blanc works with police to uncover any other new evidence, some of the Thrombeys work Marta to try and keep themselves in the lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. Ransom offers his aid in exchange for a cut of Marta's inheritance. Harlan's aged mother, Wanetta (K Callan) witnessed some suspicious activity on her son's last night that may be key to the case.


Knives Out is an engaging mystery movie from writer-director Rian Johnson. There are whodunnit elements that work. However, the part involving Harlan is more of a whydunnit. The moments leading up to Harlan's death are especially baffling. For a man administered a fatal dose of morphine, he never begins to act as if any drug has taken effect. This man, who knows all about the questionable activity of his own activity, should have realized that he might not be dying and allowed Marta to call 9-1-1. Even though he had health issues which didn't seem terminal, Harlan seemed quite lucid and quite capable of keeping up the pace of writing two new novels per year. He has no reason to care how his amended will affects his descendants, most of whom have a great deal of leech within them. Blanc knows Marta made some questionable decisions, but also knows she couldn't have paid his retainer fee.
This movie benefits from a solid ensemble. Craig, who'd previously played a southerner in Logan Lucky, slips right back into that accent as the observant Blanc. He takes the new discoveries and sees how they might connect to the initial investigation. He brings Marta close, but not close enough to divulge his findings until the right moment. De Armas is delightful as Marta, a nurse required to say things in a certain way, or those nearby will know something's wrong. Meanwhile, she tries to cover her own tracks, even though that may not be necessary. Collette, Shannon, and Evans are opportunists who desperately try to keep their opportunistic hands extended. Plummer has a commanding and demanding presence as Harlan, a writer making some final momentous decisions.


I like that Johnson tried to give viewers a different kind of mystery with Knives Out, but the story isn't as sharp as the title suggests. He reveals the key mystery to viewers about halfway through the movie and lets the secondary questions come to the forefront. Someone in the very affluent Thrombey family knows their fortunes are about to change, and knows of one way to try and prevent that from happening. That occurrence makes everybody careful to not make themselves look bad in any way. Harlan Thrombey knew he couldn't take his money with him, but he also thought that his closest relatives shouldn't be able to take his money with them. He wanted their sense of entitlement to end, but they'd be glad if someone could write a different new chapter.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Knives Out three stars. Taking a stab at a great fortune.

Knives Out trailer

© 2020 Pat Mills


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