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Film / Knives Out

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"I suspect foul play, and I have eliminated no suspects."
"The family is truly desperate. When people get desperate, the knives come out."
Detective Benoit Blanc

Knives Out is a 2019 mystery thriller directed and written by Rian Johnson.

Described as a modern take on the whodunnit murder mystery genre, the film is about a family gathering gone horribly awry when the Thrombey family's patriarch Harlan (Christopher Plummer) dies on his birthday by apparent suicide and three detectives, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), Lt. Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan), are sent to investigate the scene.

The star-studded cast also includes Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell and Frank Oz.

The film is scheduled for general release on November 27, 2019, but premiered before that at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019.

Previews: Trailer 1, Trailer 2.


Knives Out contains examples of:

  • Big Fancy House: In the trailer, the murder victim and his family, the Thrombeys, are shown as being wealthy and living in a pretty big house.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The trailer has Benoit Blanc describing the Thrombeys as really loving to "twist the knife into one another".
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Harlan Thrombey, the family patriarch, was died on his 85th birthday
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Most of the Thrombeys, with the exceptions being Harlan, who inverts it, and Ransom and Jacob, who are upfront jerkasses. The biggest example is Meg, who takes the most steps to be nice to Marta, both before and after revealing Marta's mother undocumented status.
  • Bookends: The movie begins and ends with a close-up of a "My House, My Rules, My Coffee" coffee mug.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie:
    • Marta is physically incapable of lying. She vomits immediately after she says something untrue.
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    • Harlan finds a way around this when planning her alibi, coaching her to use Exact Words to say what happened while omitting the information that would implicate her.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In a flashback, Harlan mentions during his Go game with Marta that some people can't tell the difference between a real knife and a prop knife. At the end, Ransom grabs a knife from the decorative display to try and stab Marta, but it turns out to be a prop knife.
  • Complexity Addiction: Harlan's Fatal Flaw, in a way. If he had allowed Marta to call 911 instead of immediately concocting a detailed cover-up, it might have been discovered that she hadn't accidentally overdosed him after all.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Benoit Blanc appears to be the lead at first, but following her flashback it becomes clear that Marta is the movie's emotional center.
  • Deep South: Benoit Blanc has a deep Southern accent, something Ransom (Chris Evans) mocks.
    Ransom: What is this, CSI... KFC?
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Lampshaded by Blanc, who notes that it never occurred to Ransom that Marta would be genuinely good enough to try and save the life of a witness who might implicate them in a crime.
  • Famed In-Story: Benoit Blanc is a well known figure in the world of the film, having been subject to a New Yorker profile dubbing him "The Last of the Gentlemen Detectives".
  • Heads or Tails?: Benoit flips a coin in the trailer.
  • Idle Rich: Ransom, who has never held a job and lives off of money given to him by his parents and grandfather.
  • Ironic Echo: When the family hears that Harlan decided to cut Ransom out of his will, they say it "might be the best thing that ever happened to you" (in that it might teach him self-sufficiency). Later, after discovering Harlan cut the rest of his family off as well and left all of his assets to Marta, Ransom yells the same thing back at them before speeding away in his car.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Harlan Thrombey. He spends most of his birthday arguing with his family and cutting them off financially, but does so because he wants them to learn to be self-sufficient. He also has genuine affection for Mara which leads him to leave his entire estate to her at the end.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Ransom. At first he seems like a Jerk with a Heart of Gold until we discover he orchestrated the whole plot, including his grandfather's death.
  • Knife Nut: Harlan Thrombey keeps a decorative display of knives in his home. One of the knives is then grabbed by Ransom's hand.
  • Middle Name Basis: Hugh Ransom Drysdale-Thrombey chooses to go by "Ransom".
  • Pastiche: Of Agatha Christie mysteries - Daniel Craig's Benoit Blanc has been overtly described a "new Poirot."
  • Running Gag: Nobody can remember which country Marta emigrated to the United States from.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Harlan's suicide was meant to prevent anyone from finding out that Marta accidentally got the medication vials mixed up but it turned out to be this as Ransom already switched the medication in the vials so Marta gave him the correct dose anyway with her mixup.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Ransom Thrombey throws a number of "Eat shit" at his family.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: Blanc is a Southerner and a detective.
  • Spanner in the Works: Ransom, to a criminal degree. Once learns Harlan is going to leave everything to Marta, he not only sabotages her med bag (leading to Harlan's death), he also anonymously hires Blanc to investigate, assuming his investigation will lead to Marta's incarceration and the new will being nullified.
  • Spiritual Sequel: To Rian Johnson's first film, Brick; being another Deconstructive Parody of a popular sub-genre of Detective Fiction, the British "cozy".
  • Suicide, Not Murder: Inverted. It appears to be suicide at first, but Blanc suspects it is murder. Then it becomes clear Harlan killed himself to protect Marta, but it turns out due to Ransom tampering with Marta's med bag the suicide was unnecessary, making it a complicated form of murder.
  • Tag Line: "A whodunnit like no one has ever dunnit."
  • Unreliable Narrator: Played with. The witnesses (minus Marta) lie constantly to Blanc and the police, but the flashbacks always tell the truth.
  • Visual Pun: The trailer switches to a real knife being grabbed on the circular display after Benoit mentions that the family members "really love twisting the knife into one another".
  • Your Cheating Heart: Richard was cheating on Linda and Harlan threatened to expose the affair.

"Tell me what happened to my grandfather."

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