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Knives out Film Review

Updated on April 8, 2020

Was Knives out a good murder mystery? Is it worth a watch?

*Spoiler warning*

After watching knives out I found myself slightly disappointed. I believe this was due the fact I didn’t see the true villain/antagonist coming, thanks to the complex and brilliant structure of the film!

I am a huge fan of murder mystery films and books as I believe they allow a truly mind altering experience while watching, as (if done well) they keep your mind racing and trying to work out every outcome. Knives out was certainly no exception to this, as throughout the entirety of the film I was on the edge of my seat. The structure of the narrative kept my mind racing as I tried to establish if my initial guesses and bets on who the main antagonist was would come to fruition, or if I had misses something while the plot seemed to fly past.

Throughout this film we follow the kind hearted Marta as she struggles to survive her guilt, believing she has just killed the man she looks up to and cares for as if he were her father. While following her character you learn about her family struggles due to being illegal immigrants and why she feels she must embed herself into this awful lie Harlan has thrust upon her. The film does an incredible job of showing the racial divides between her challenged family background and the entitled Thrombey family’s obnoxious look on the world. It is shown perfectly as it is subtly hinted at and shown throughout the entire film, without once feeling forced or relied upon for added tension. The perfect example being on scene in particular where they are talking about the politics of immigrants and even while talking to her about it he is handing his plate to her, subconsciously showing that she is like a maid to them despite the amount of time they have called her family.

Unlike many murder mystery films how the act was committed is shown right away, causing your mind to race as you try to understand who the true antagonist is and what their motives were. I believe for many viewers this will have been seen as a thriller disguised as a mystery to begin with, when in reality it is a mystery disguised as a thriller. This is only shown however with the ending and twist reveal that it was not her fault and actually there had been an act foul play.

The films writing also had an incredible way of keeping its characters and their motives unknown as it developed, allowing anyone and everyone to be a suspect constantly keeping you guessing. By far the most interesting thing about the film however was the structure and the way the story was progressed. Thanks to its unique back and fourth structure it established its characters early on showing them all and giving their base descriptions and possible motives. Thanks to this unique structure Ransoms character had already been introduced and portrayed, without being shown throughout the first half of the film. This then throws him off as a suspect as he has already been described as the “dark horse” and wasn’t around much early on. This is an incredible call by the writer as usually the antagonist is someone you wouldn’t suspect, but has been present throughout the entire film making it more of an impact when it is revealed. Having him not be in the first half of the film and then showing him to try and be helpful to Marta gives off the intent that he isn’t that important, and his role is just to propel the plot forward.

Personally due to this the films ending it is both an incredible masterpiece and yet falls flat for me. Having the main antagonist be the one who has (from the beginning) been described as the villain and “dark horse” seems slightly too obvious and a bit of a let-down. On the flip side of this I believe this was the most incredible way to do this film and its antagonist. That’s due to the fact that so many other murder mystery’s before it have done the convoluted plot with an unsuspected character twist at the end, and by having the twist not be a twist Knives out has forced the viewer to over guess and lose track of clear facts and evidence. This fact and fact of the film already showing the “how” it happened is a true show that this film stands above other mystery films, and should be taken as a whole new take on the genera in my opinion. Thanks to this I believe the film is truly worth a watch as it is not only mindbogglingly entertaining but also extremely complex, with multiple underlining issues and meanings.

© 2020 Thomas Harrison

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