Knives Out is a murder-mystery-thriller centred around the alleged suicide of the wealthy head of a family (Christopher Plummer), and the private investigator (Daniel Craig) hired to investigate the death despite its initial ruling as a suicide.
The film wastes no time in introducing you to the characters (or suspects), explaining where they fit in the family, what the death means for them, and any possible motives. All the setup is established within about the first 20 minutes, allowing the “whodunit” elements to take over and keep the plot moving at a steady pace. The plot of Knives Out is really tight and well written, any questions which arise throughout the film are answered by its conclusion and any plot-holes nicely filled.
The foreshadowing in Knives Out is a brilliant example of how to do foreshadowing. Every important detail in ‘what actually happened’ is set up somehow earlier in the film, either visually or through dialogue; and while the pieces don’t seem to fit together until its conclusion, you do feel like you have all the information you need to solve the plot by the time Daniel Craig (the Private Investigator) unravels the truth. Many lines which appeared to be for character development came back later to explain the circumstances around the death – these lines don’t feel forced either, they just add depth to the characters. I expect a lot of work went into the script to make these lines; 1) relevant to the plot, 2) appropriate to the character and the scene, 3) develop the audiences understanding of the character, and 4) not come across as out of place (e.g. telling a different character something they should already know).
This is clearly a plot-driven film, and the plot is well paced, engaging, and intelligent without being difficult to follow. All in all, the plot is incredibly well crafted and is well worth watching to see a tight script which makes good use of all the time is has. Even scenes which don’t directly advance the plot still have a purpose in showing you something which will be important later, or to develop the relationships between the characters and add depth to each of them.
The acting in this film is pretty spot on, every character is believable and sticks true to anything the audience is shown/told about each character. Each actor seemed well-suited to their part, and while it might not be too adventurous for any of them, the events of the film feel real because of the believable approach each character has to any given situation. Daniel Craig has this outrageous Southern accent throughout the film, and whilst he holds it very well it did catch me off guard at first. I’m not sure if it was meant as a contradiction to Southern stereotype by being the smartest and most observant character, but its friendly association does strangely endear you to the character throughout the film. I think Daniel Craig had a lot more fun with this film than he has had with any of the James Bond films, but then I’m pretty indifferent to the whole Bond thing.
Though deceit is a major theme in any whodunit, the characters never contradict each other about who they are or their relationships with each other; this means that even a few lines go a long way for the audiences understanding, as you never need to waste time to question who any of the characters are (literally and metaphorically). The setup of the film also includes a few flashbacks, typically to set up motives prior to the death, which helps establish the type of things characters are willing to lie about and gives the audience a strong sense of the moral positions of each character.
Though the film “world” is quite contained, there are a few scenes which take place in the “real” world (it’s a non-fiction setting) and show the audience that there is a living breathing world outside of the film. Each of these scenes serves a purpose, and as with everything in this film, either resolves a plot point, establishes something for later, or develops a character in an important way; often all three. This makes these scenes feel like they fit within the film, rather than just being for the sake of showing the events (and world) are “real”. While this is arguably a superfluous point, I appreciate it when films take moments to show they exist within a living world which continues to move outside of the story, it makes the film feel more authentic.
The cinematography in Knives Out is nothing spectacular, but is solid throughout. A lot of shots are nicely framed, they often draw your eyes where they need to be and don’t try to distract or overwhelm you at any point. I don’t believe I “missed” any important information in any scene, and the few times the camera angle does obscure information it’s only until the next shot or so to maintain suspense. I don’t remember any bad shots, but I do remember a few noteworthy shots, and I usually believe that if you don’t remember much about the cinematography, that’s a good thing. I didn’t really notice any significant audio moments, but then I was watching this at home due to the lockdown at the moment, so the sound design has not impacted my rating.
I really enjoyed Knives Out; it was an excellent plot-driven mystery-thriller which executes its story really well. I was thoroughly invested in the film and really enjoyed the way the audience discovered the information along with the characters, making me feel like I could have reached the correct conclusion at the same time as the characters. I’d recommend this film to pretty much anyone, it’s brilliantly crafted and very satisfying from an audience perspective. There’s not a lot of “action” so if you’re only in films for guns and explosions you could give it a miss, but otherwise I’d say you’re missing out by not watching Knives Out.
- Cinematography – 7/10
- Plot – 10/10
- Acting – 9/10
- Script – 10/10
- Enjoyment* – 10/10
OVERALL – 9.2/10
*Enjoyment is a personal measure of how much I enjoyed the film, more of a “gut feeling” than the empirical approach I try to take with the other ratings.