Knives Out (2019) Movie Review

Knives Out is a 2019 American comedy 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 $162 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 her daughter’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 by making it appear he was still alive after she had driven home, and then slit his own throat. Carrying out Harlan’s instructions, Marta was seen escaping the house by Harlan’s very elderly mother, who mistook her for Ransom.

Because Marta cannot lie without vomiting, she gives only partial answers to Blanc’s questions. Blanc asks her to assist in his investigation. As they search the property, Marta attempts to conceal evidence.

The family is shocked to learn from Harlan’s lawyer that Harlan left everything to Marta. They turn on her, but Ransom helps her escape. At a restaurant, Ransom tricks Marta into confessing to him, and 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 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 after reading the report. He brings Marta, Ransom and the police to a room to reveal his deduction.

After Ransom learned at the party that Harlan was leaving everything to Marta, he swapped the contents of Marta’s medication vials so she would kill Harlan with an overdose of morphine, making her ineligible to claim his inheritance. 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 lied that Fran had survived, and tricked Ransom into confessing. He attacks her with a knife, but discovers it is a retractable stage knife. As Ransom is taken into custody, Marta watches the Thrombeys from what is now her mansion.

My Personal Thoughts

Marta vomits on Ransom after lying about the Fran thing and in a fit of rage, Ransom tries to kill Marta with a knife that turns out to be a prop one that Harlan mentioned earlier in the movie.

In the end, Ransom is taken away into custody past the shocked family who all gather on the drive to see what has happened. Marta takes one of Harlan’s cups that is labeled ‘My House, My Rules, My Coffee’ and she goes to the balcony to overlook the pack of vultures. They all turn round and peer up at her and she moves one of her fingers covering the cup which reveals the top line that says ‘My House.’

Now the movie cuts to credits after this and whilst we don’t get complete confirmation on exactly what the character is going to do with the fortune, personally I believe that she’s too nice of a person to not at least give them all something, especially meg who she vowed to take care of.

I would have loved to have seen her tell them where to go but Marta is still the nicest person in the movie, maybe the nicest person of all time, maybe the new mother theresa.

It’s clear she’s keeping the house though and after the tricks that the Thrombey’s pulled I’d be surprised if she didn’t oust them from it too because yeah, let’s face it, they deserved it.

Well, I really enjoyed Knives Out and it shows that in Hollywood there can still be original properties that make for great movies. All the actors complaining that superhero films have stopped there being a focus on anything else need to take a good look at Knives Out because it’s a perfect example of why they’re wrong and when a good idea is executed well it makes for a really entertaining ride.

Everything in Knives Out just works really well and I could have happily had another half hour of the movie just following the family and all the kinds of things that they got up to.

The cast really compliments the work and overall the film is a brilliant deconstruction of what a whodunnit mystery is that takes the classic elements apart and celebrates them.

Films like this are pretty much either made or broken on their twist and this did keep me guessing throughout which was nice as doing a channel like this often means you pretty much watch the same tropes over and over again.

Knives Out feels like the perfect movie to close out the year and it’s definitely worth going to see in the cinema. It feels like a throwback to Poirot and the murder mysteries of old that retains all of the right elements whilst updating them for modern audiences.

I will rate this Movie 8/10.

Directed byRian Johnson
Produced byRam Bergman Rian Johnson
Written byRian Johnson
StarringDaniel Craig Chris Evans Ana de Armas Jamie Lee Curtis Michael Shannon Don Johnson Toni Collette Lakeith Stanfield Katherine Langford Jaeden Martell Christopher Plummer
Music byNathan Johnson
CinematographySteve Yedlin
Edited byBob Ducsay
Media Rights Capital T-Street
Distributed byLionsgate
Release dateSeptember 7, 2019 (TIFF) November 27, 2019 (United States)
Running time130 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million
Box office$162.8 million

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