“Knives Out”: A Comedic Spin on the Classic Whodunnit

slashfilm.com

Catherine McLellan, Lifestyle Editor

Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” hit theaters on Nov. 27, and this brilliantly staged Agatha Christie-style murder mystery reveals many plot twists through relatable comedy and thrilling drama. 

The story begins when the wealthy crime novelist, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), is found dead in his study the morning after his 85th birthday party: a party that brought his family back into town and, in turn, revealed a line-up of suspects. Throughout the detailed investigation—conducted by the esteemed Private Investigator Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), Detective Lieutenant Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan)—the Thrombey’s family secrets come to light, as they slowly unveil how Harlan endeavored to cut his relatives out of his will the night of the party.

Through mesmerising and eccentric characters, the A-list cast fully delivers Johnson’s whirlwind plot. Jamie Lee Curtis takes on the role of Linda, Harlan’s oldest daughter, who is witty and strong-minded as she refuses to give up information to the detectives. However, her husband Richard (Don Johnson) and sister-in-law Joni (Toni Collette), reveal their secrets to the detectives. The contrast between each of these characters brings a complexity to the movie that many of today’s films lack. 

A change from his usual heroic role of Captain America, Chris Evans plays Hugh “Ransom” Drsydale, the brooding, villainous son of Linda and Richard. Towards the beginning of the film, Ransom is seen as very mysterious because his family members are hesitant to talk about him and the detectives are unable to get him in for questioning. However, Ransom shifts from antagonist to protagonist as he seems to be helping Marta, but by the end of the film, he has become a villain again. 

In many mysteries, the detective is seen as the main protagonist, but in Ana de Armas’ breakout role as Harlan’s caregiver, Marta Cabrera carries the plot. As well as being at the center of the murder investigation, Marta is beset by immigration struggles and judgment from the Thrombeys. Her excellent portrayal in this film has earned Armas a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture. 

Johnson’s mystery packed plot keeps the viewer on their toes from the very first scene— Marta is shown in her home when she is called back to the Thrombey house for questioning. Each of the family members are questioned, and some reveal significant details, such as their disagreements with Harlan on the night of his death. However, Marta reveals the most information, as she quickly exposes her weakness: she throws up every time she lies. 

With this weakness, Marta struggles to keep the secret of Harlan’s death and how he covered up her medical mistake with suicide. The film follows Marta as she tries to keep the detectives from finding out this secret. Things only get more complicated when Marta is revealed as the sole beneficiary in Harlan’s will. Ransom seemingly forms an alliance with Marta, and they continue to cover up her secret. But when Marta decides to come clean with the family, Ransom’s deception and the true cause of Harlan’s death are revealed.