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Knives Out is a great modern take on whodunit films

Due to Knives Outs success, Rian Johnson was asked to write two more films for Netflix. Glass Onion, his second film will release on Netflix on December 23.
Photo Credit: Photo via Lionsgate under Creative Commons Licence
Due to Knives Out’s success, Rian Johnson was asked to write two more films for Netflix. Glass Onion, his second film will release on Netflix on December 23.

Whodunits consistently keep you on the edge of your seat through their mystery and engagement. Their serious tone can be closely connected with films during the noir period. Whodunits provide the same thrill a case in real life would. Viewers are just as concerned with connecting the dots as the on-screen detective. Knives Out is an interesting case because it defeats most norms of the whodunit genre.

Plot of Knives Out

Knives Out follows the death of crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). As an important will reading is coming up, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) must figure out who the killer is. Plot twist, everyone in Thrombey’s family is a potential victim.  Thrombey’s registered nurse Marta (Ana de Armas) must work with Blanc as the case gets increasingly wider.

Characters

Within minutes, the film follows a dysfunctional family narrative. Viewers instantly see how quirky the character are as Detective Blanc interrogates them. One character that sticks out from the rest is Ransom (Chris Evans). He is the grandson of Thrombey, and is known for his sarcastic demeanor and arrogant personality. His interactions with Blanc in the film are often the funniest.

Viewers also follow Ransom’s parents Richard (Don Johnson) and Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis). What makes the film stand out is how important it utilizes its characters. Each character is unique in their own right and their exchanges are comedic yet horrifyingly true about American family structures. The will reading scene is a great example of how this played out between its characters.

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As the audience follows Marta, they realize she’s the lens of the story. The Thrombey family leech off the wealth that Harlan provides, the same wealth that Harlan worked hard to acquire. Marta is genuinely pure-hearted and Harlan recognizes her intentions.

The film plays into commentary about race and immigration when the eccentric Thrombley family cannot remember Marta’s name. Ironically, the family cares about her presence when she is made the sole inheritor of Harlan’s estate.

Themes

Rian Johnson’s unique direction is what makes Knives Out stand out as a unique whodunit. The film’s unique blend of mystery and social commentary further implements a new kind of storytelling. The film makes a bold statement by having its victim killed in the beginning. This is unique to the mystery genre.

Greed is an overarching theme in the film. This is displayed at the beginning of the film as each family member isn’t afraid to rat each out for who may have killed Harlan. Each one of them is truly in it for the money/inheritance. Ironically, they’re all wealthy and financially secure.

Johnson’s biting commentary on race is also important. There’s a running gag in the film where each character incorrectly guesses which country Marta is from without asking. While played off innocently, the film does a great job of exposing Americans’ ignorance.

Marta is only considered part of the family when it’s convenient. The Thrombeys often misuse their power to get what they want. What seemed like appreciation for Marta was genuine hatred when they found out she was the sole inheritor of Harlan’s estate. She even felt like she had to give it up, which further exemplifies the power the rich have on those they deem weaker.

The Thrombeys use their ignorance to get what they want. They feel angered they didn’t get anything from the will, so they decide they want to report Marta for being an illegal immigrant. Knives Out want Americans to realize the bias that’s being placed on immigrants and the unfairness they face.

Marta doesn’t believe she deserves the life Harlan gave her because of the background she came from. Truthfully she does because it was Harlan’s decision.

Verdict

Knives Out is a fun mystery on the surface with powerful themes deeply explored. It tackles its commentary with depth and grace. It also takes a look into the deeper problems America is currently facing. Its sequel, Glass Onion also plays into that agenda. The movie’s all-star cast is another reason to check this flick out.

Knives Out can be streamed on Netflix. This is a must-see with hilarious moments all throughout.

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About the Contributor
Joseph Sanfilippo
Joseph Sanfilippo, Managing Editor of Entertainment and Media
Joseph Sanfilippo is an 18-year-old Senior at Colonia High School. Sanfilippo is an only child but enjoys being around family and friends. Most of his friendships have impacted him in a positive way. Sanfilippo is an avid movie-goer and dedicates some of his free time to write reviews. He has a passion for creative self-expression, and constantly gets stuck in a world of imagination. He also has a passion for music, and most of his buddies know he’s always analyzing the next big Indie film or song. Sanfilippo’s favorite subject is English. He feels at ease when he’s writing because that’s when most of his thoughts emerge.  This year he's in Journalism 3 where he is eager to create his own podcast and create videos.  You can catch him hanging out with his friend group or at your local AMC theater, working or watching a movie. Sanfilippo plans on being a filmmaker one day and can’t wait for what the future holds. 

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Knives Out is a great modern take on whodunit films