Knives Out (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rian Johnson|
|Written by||Rian Johnson|
|Music by||Nathan Johnson|
|Edited by||Bob Ducsay|
|Box office||$132.6 million|
Knives Out is a 2019 American murder mystery film written, produced, and directed by Rian Johnson. Described as a modern take on the whodunit, the film follows a family gathering gone awry, after the family patriarch's death leads a master detective to investigate. The film stars an ensemble cast, including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.
Knives Out had its world premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019, and was theatrically released in the United States on November 27, 2019, by Lionsgate. The film received critical acclaim, particularly for its screenplay, direction, and acting, and has grossed over $132 million worldwide against a $40 million budget. At the 77th Golden Globe Awards, the film received three nominations in the Musical or Comedy categories: Best Motion Picture, Best Actor for Craig, and Best Actress for de Armas.
Wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey invites his family to his mansion for his 85th birthday party. The next morning, Harlan's housekeeper Fran finds him dead, apparently having slit his own throat. An anonymous figure hires private detective Benoit Blanc to investigate.
Blanc learns that Harlan had alienated many of the family: he had threatened to expose his son-in-law Richard for having an affair; cut off his daughter-in-law Joni's allowance for stealing money meant for his granddaughter's tuition; fired his youngest son Walt from his publishing company; and cut his lazy grandson Ransom out of his will.
Unknown to Blanc, after the party Harlan's nurse Marta Cabrera accidentally injected Harlan with a fatal dose of morphine. Minutes from death, Harlan told Marta how to avoid suspicion, making it appear he was still alive after she had driven home, then he slit his own throat. Because Marta cannot lie without vomiting, she avoids answering their questions in a way that involves explicit mendacity, but Blanc asks her to assist in his investigation. As they search the property, Marta attempts to conceal evidence, but is only partially successful.
The family is shocked to hear from Harlan's lawyer that Harlan left everything to Marta. They turn on her, but Ransom helps her escape. At a restaurant, Ransom gets Marta to trust him and she confesses everything to him; he offers to help her in exchange for his share of the inheritance. The other Thrombeys realize that, under the slayer rule, Marta will lose the inheritance if she killed Harlan, but Blanc tells them that they all are still suspects. They try to persuade Marta to renounce her inheritance.
Marta receives a blackmail note with a partial photocopy of Harlan's toxicology report. She and Ransom drive to the medical examiner's office, but it has been destroyed in a fire. Marta receives an email with a time and address to meet the blackmailer. When Blanc spots her and Ransom, Marta speeds away. The police catch them and arrest Ransom. Blanc explains to Marta that Harlan's mother had seen Ransom climbing down from Harlan's upstairs rooms on the night of his death. Marta lies that Ransom forced her to drive, and vomits without Blanc noticing.
Marta goes to the address in the email and discovers Fran drugged. She performs CPR and calls 911. Marta confesses everything to Blanc, but Ransom has already informed on her. At the house, Marta finds a copy of the full toxicology report hidden in Fran's cannabis stash. Marta is about to confess to the family, but Blanc interrupts her when he spots something in the report. He brings Marta, Ransom and the police to a room to reveal his deduction.
After Ransom learned that Harlan was leaving everything to Marta (in an argument between Ransom and Harlan), he swapped the contents of Marta's medication vials and stole the Naloxone antidote, so she would kill Harlan with an overdose of morphine, making her ineligible to claim his inheritance according to the aforementioned slayer rule. However, Marta — an experienced nurse — administered the correct medicine without reading the labels, and is thus innocent of Harlan's death. After the death was reported as suicide, Ransom anonymously hired Blanc to discover Marta's guilt. Fran later saw Ransom swapping the vials back and sent him the blackmail note. Realizing that Marta had given Harlan the correct medication, Ransom passed on the blackmail note to Marta, removing the address and time. He destroyed the evidence of Marta's innocence by burning down the medical examiner's office and burning Fran's copy of the toxicology report. He drugged Fran with morphine and emailed her location to Marta, planning to frame Marta for Fran's murder.
Marta receives a call from the hospital and says that Fran is alive. Believing that Fran will implicate him, Ransom angrily confesses, vowing revenge. Marta vomits on Ransom; she had lied that Fran had survived, and thus tricked Ransom into confessing. He attacks her with a knife, but discovers it is a retractable stage knife. Blanc reveals he knew all along that Marta was hiding her role in Harlan's death, due to a drop of blood on her shoe. She asks him if she should give Harlan's money to his family; Blanc counsels her to follow her heart. As Ransom is taken into custody, Marta watches the Thrombeys from a mansion balcony. The film ends with the family looking up at her, as she looks down at them sipping coffee from a mug with the words "My House, My Rules, My Coffee" visible.
- Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc: a private detective called upon to investigate Harlan's murder.
- Chris Evans as Hugh Ransom Drysdale: Harlan's grandson, Linda and Richard's son, and a spoiled playboy.
- Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera: Harlan's nurse and caretaker who had a close relationship with him.
- Jamie Lee Curtis as Linda Drysdale: Harlan's eldest daughter and Richard's wife. She is a real estate mogul who runs her own company with her husband's support.
- Michael Shannon as Walter "Walt" Thrombey: Harlan's youngest son, Donna's husband, and the CEO of his father's publishing company.
- Don Johnson as Richard Drysdale: Harlan's son-in-law and Linda's husband, who helps run his wife's company.
- Toni Collette as Joni Thrombey: widow of Harlan's deceased son Neil, who is a lifestyle guru and influencer.
- Lakeith Stanfield as Detective Lieutenant Elliot: a local detective involved in the investigation.
- Katherine Langford as Megan "Meg" Thrombey: Harlan's granddaughter, Joni and Neil's daughter, who studies at prestigious liberal arts college.
- Jaeden Martell as Jacob Thrombey: Harlan's grandson, Walt and Donna's son, who holds alt-right views and is always on his phone.
- Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey: a wealthy mystery novelist who invites his family to his 85th birthday party and is later found dead. He has three children — Linda, Walt and deceased Neil.
- Noah Segan as Trooper Wagner: a police officer involved with the investigation.
- Edi Patterson as Fran: Harlan's housekeeper, who discovers his body.
- Riki Lindhome as Donna Thrombey: Harlan's daughter-in-law and Walt's wife.
- K Callan as Wanetta "Great Nana" Thrombey: Harlan's elderly mother.
- Frank Oz as Alan Stevens: Harlan's lawyer.
- M. Emmet Walsh as Mr. Proofroc.
- Marlene Forte as Mrs. Cabrera: Marta's mother.
- Shyrley Rodriguez as Alicia Cabrera: Marta's sister.
- Raúl Castillo as a Cop.
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a voice cameo as Detective Hardrock.
After making the 2005 film Brick, writer and director Rian Johnson came up with the basic concept for Knives Out. In June 2010, he expressed interest in making an Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery film. He told The Independent that he wanted to make the film after finishing Looper (2012). However, Johnson's next film project became Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).
Knives Out was announced in September 2018, with Daniel Craig starring. It was sold to distributors during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. In October 2018, Chris Evans, Lakeith Stanfield, Michael Shannon, Ana de Armas, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Toni Collette joined the cast. In November 2018, Christopher Plummer, Jaeden Martell, Katherine Langford, Riki Lindhome, Edi Patterson, and Raúl Castillo joined the cast. Frequent Johnson collaborator Noah Segan was announced as being in the film in December. Shannon has compared the film to the works of Christie. In March 2019, Frank Oz, who previously worked with Johnson in The Last Jedi, revealed that he would be appearing in a small role. M. Emmet Walsh was cast in the film to replace Ricky Jay, who had died during production.
Johnson cited several classic mystery thrillers and mystery comedies as influences, including The Last of Sheila, Murder on the Orient Express, Something's Afoot, Murder by Death, Death on the Nile, The Private Eyes, The Mirror Crack'd, Evil Under the Sun, Deathtrap, Clue, and Gosford Park.
Principal photography began on October 30, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts and wrapped on December 20, 2018. Filming locations included Marlborough, Natick, Wellesley, Maynard, Waltham, Medfield and Canton.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Queen & Slim, and was initially projected to gross $22–25 million from 3,391 theaters over its five-day opening weekend. The film held advance screenings on November 22 and 23, making $2 million from 936 theaters. It then made $8.5 million (including the $2 million from the screenings and $1.7 million from Tuesday night previews) and $6.8 million on Thanksgiving Day, increasing estimates to $44 million. It went on to gross $27.2 million in its opening weekend (a five-day total of $41.7 million), finishing second behind Frozen II. In its second weekend the film made $14.2 million (a drop of 47%), remaining in second.
On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 326 reviews, with an average rating of 8.34/10. The website's critics' consensus reads: "Knives Out sharpens old murder-mystery tropes with a keenly assembled suspense outing that makes brilliant use of writer-director Rian Johnson's stellar ensemble." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 82 out of 100, based on reviews from 49 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an average 4.5 out of 5 stars, with 67% saying they would definitely recommend it.
David Rooney, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, described the film as an "ingeniously plotted, tremendously entertaining and deviously irreverent crowd-pleaser" and "a treat from start to finish", praising the film's script, the throwbacks to the murder mysteries of the 1970s, and the actors' performances. Dana Stevens of Slate wrote "Knives Out knows exactly what kind of movie it is: a sendup of twisty murder mysteries with all-star ensemble casts that also loves and respects that silly tradition." For The AV Club, A. A. Dowd called the film "madly entertaining" and "an ingenious sleight-of-hand crowdpleaser". David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film an A-, writing "Johnson has devised a murder-mystery that's eager to defy your expectations, but unwilling to betray your trust. The film may be more smart than stylish, and it may opt for a reasonable outcome over an overwhelmingly shocking one, but Knives Out doesn't let the element of surprise ruin a good story."
David Sims of the Atlantic wrote that he "turned the whodunit on its head". Dani di Placido of Forbes wrote that Johnson "finds a way to revitalise the concept" and "makes murder mystery great again".
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result|
|American Film Institute||January 3, 2020||Top Ten Films of the Year||Knives Out||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||January 5, 2020||Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||Knives Out||Pending|
|Best Actor – Musical or Comedy||Daniel Craig||Pending|
|Best Actress – Musical or Comedy||Ana de Armas||Pending|
|Hollywood Critics Association Awards||January 9, 2020||Best Cast||Knives Out||Pending|
|Best Original Screenplay||Rian Johnson||Pending|
|National Board of Review||January 8, 2020||Top Ten Films||Knives Out||Won|
|Satellite Awards||February 7, 2020||Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||Knives Out||Pending|
|Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Daniel Craig||Pending|
|Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Ana de Armas||Pending|
|Best Cast – Motion Picture||Knives Out||Won|
In an interview with Collider, Rian Johnson mentioned that if the film performs well at the box office, he would love to turn Knives Out into a series revolving around Detective Blanc solving different mysteries. He also mentioned that he already has an idea and title for another film.
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