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‘Knives Out’ Review: A Modern Spin on the Classic Whodunnit

For some families, Thanksgiving traditions may include watching the parade on television or playing a game of tag football, but for mine, it includes a midday trip to the local movie theater. So, what better way to enjoy quality family time than spending two hours with the Thrombey’s, the wealthy, dysfunctional family at the center of Rian Johnson’s murder mystery Knives Out.  

Following the death of the patriarch, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), an investigation is led by Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), the Poirot-like private investigator with a thick southern drawl, as every member of the family is considered a suspect. From Walt (Michael Shannon), Harlan’s youngest son, who runs his father’s publishing empire to Ransom (Chris Evans), the black sheep of the family, everyone seems to have a motive for wanting Harlan dead.

Photo Credit: Claire Folger/Lionsgate

Knives Out keeps the audience on their toes as it both follows and defies the conventions of a classic whodunnit, even making a satire of the whole genre. The film begins as a traditional whodunnit, reminiscent of an Agatha Christie novel, as it lays out all the clues for us: “These are the suspects, and these are their motives.” But, it quickly turns into a thriller as the killer is revealed in the first half of the movie while trying to cover up their own tracks. However, Johnson uses this as a source of misdirection as nothing is what it seems.

With an all-star cast comprised of the actors who played James Bond and Captain America, as well as scream queens Jamie Lee Curtis and Toni Collette, I expected to get lost in their stardom. However, each actor disappeared in their roles. Who knew Chris Evans would be so good at being bad? And that the one thing I was missing in life was Collette as a spiritual lifestyle guru/influencer?

Photo Credit: Lionsgate

But among these big names, the breakout star of the film was Ana de Armas, who plays Marta Cabrera, Harlan’s nurse and closest confidant. De Armas has spent most of her career acting in Spanish films, recently making a name for herself in Hollywood in Blade Runner 2049. Marta is arguably the central figure of the film as she weaves in and out of the Thrombey’s drama with ease as she is part of the family, but not in the family. De Armas portrays Marta with such emotional complexity and heart that she has no trouble going head-to-head with the more experienced Craig as the two of them form a Holmes and Watson team to investigate Harlan’s death.

While the movie might seem a bit repetitive since most of it is told in a series of flashbacks back to the night of the foul play, each retelling gives the audience something new each time, whether we realize it or not. I, for one, cannot wait to re-watch the film to catch all of the clues that I missed the first time around. Knives Out will make you think, laugh, cry, and gasp as the puzzle comes together.

Knives Out is a murder mystery like you’ve never seen before. It’s fresh, witty, and sharp (no pun intended). Each scene presents a new clue, so grab some buddies and go watch it in theaters now!

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Sannah is a freshman at BU studying Film + TV in the College of Communication. Most of her writing is inspired by her interests in film, fashion, and activism. Other than that, you can find her working at coffee shops, watching (and rewatching) random films, and quoting Taylor Swift lyrics.
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