Knives Out… Sharp and Full of Holes

The Stream: Stabbed full of plot holes and too long

The Big Screen: Great cast with entertaining moments and characters

The Final Bill: Knives Out is an entertaining TV movie that delivers a strike but doesn’t quite hit the mark.

– S2S and Trip Fontaine

Director: Rian Johnson
Rating: PG-13 (a little bit of cursing and vomit)
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Runtime: 2 hours 7 minutes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, LaKeith Stanfield
Notable Trailers: Bombshell

S2S: This weekend we were able to preview a movie perfect for the Thanksgiving season, Knives Out. What is Thanksgiving without families coming together, airing their drama and disdain and a little bit of MURDER! Yes, Knives Out provides us with not a holiday themed movie, but a movie that reminds of morals behind the season, giving thanks, loving family, and fun and games. Games like Mafia and WHO DONE IT?!

TF: I hear you there. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is mainly style over substance. It is like Johnson decided to write and direct a less serious, contemporary version of Murder on the Orient Express, which had a remake in 2017. You may hear a lot of comparisons to that movie. Knives Out’s plot is both familiar and convoluted; but, it doesn’t mean it is not worthy of a viewing.

Offical Trailer

S2S: Knives Out is described by Lionsgate as “When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.After that I can’t give much more without dropping a spoiler. But this puts us in a perfect position to discuss.

S2S: Knives Out is jammed packed with a star-studded ensemble. Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans who all do a really solid job portraying their individual characters. Sidenote: each individual character couldn’t get anymore stereotypical or carbon copy to previous mystery movies. Daniel Craig’s southern drawl was quite amazing, even if I’m sure quite offensive to the Colonel. Throughout the movie, the cast gave moments of convincing and captivating performances. Especially, the relative newcomer to the acting world Ana de Armas, who played Marta, had times where she wasn’t put in the shadow of the other looming superstars in the cast. Interestingly enough, another star cast could’ve done this movie and it wouldn’t be the same at all, not sure if that’s a positive or a negative at this point. Either way, the cast/movie has charm and is entertaining.

TF: I agree that the cast is star-studded and these actors are clearly having a great time playing these characters. I love Daniel Craig in this non-Bond role. It feels rare that we see him stretch like this and it’s fun. However, I do think his Benoit Blanc is somehow both too broad and not broad enough. I was getting Inspector Clouseau vibes, but I wanted more daffy antics. Also, Christopher Plummer, Chris Evans and Jamie Lee Curtis are sinking their teeth into these mysterious Thrombey family members. Michael Shannon, as Harlan’s son benefiting from nepotism, and Toni Collette, as a scheming daughter-in-law, are chewing scenery left and right. There’s consistent great energy when these actors are on the screen.

S2S: Unfortunately, the cast doesn’t wholly save this movie. There are so many plot holes in the script or the editing that we left the theater saying, “just pretend like that made sense” or “they forgot all about that”. It’s almost like it was a donut with hole in the middle, another donut with a hole in the middle, with another donut with a hole in the middle. But I digress, the storyline in itself is not original but the way the story is told saves that in a way. The way the story is told also dumbfounding. It felt as if I was being read one of Harlan’s books, which is great but it felt as long as one of Harlan’s books as well. We definitely felt as if this movie drug on way too long. It was so much so that I felt okay checking my phone because I knew the end was imminent even though the biggest secret and reveal wasn’t complete.

TF: Yes, but don’t leave out the set design. The production design of the house is outstanding. Everywhere you look, there are knick-knacks and interesting set pieces that catch the eye. A huge portrait of Christopher Plummer as Harlan looms over a room in the house as the patriarch’s presence does in the family. The structure of the home itself is a marvel, which is perfectly suited for a mystery writer’s estate. Lastly, I will mention that at times the music is very gripping. There are some strings striking at one point that were accenting tension. These parts of the production really help the things come together.

TF: But you’re right the real problem is that ultimately the mystery isn’t great. The plot points are kind of obvious and then become convoluted, if you try to unpack it. Knives Out feels maybe 20 minutes too long. There’s so much going on in order to build to the conclusion that the movie loses some steam along the way. I wanted more comedy than mystery since the mystery wasn’t very mysterious.

S2S Rating Scale

S2S: With that said, Knives Out is clever and entertaining at times, but isn’t worth the time in the theater. The movie may be worth matinee money if the family wants to do something around the holiday but ultimately this is a perfect FX or Netflix movie. Something you watch once and then can leave on in the background and check out parts of it when its on TV over and over again. For me this get a handful of popcorn.

What do you think Trip?

TF: I agree with you S2S. Knives Out is fun and has some smart moments. This cast is the reason to stick with the movie to the end. It definitely is a movie to gather the family around and laugh and talk about. I agree that Knives Out may become one of those movies that is just on all the time and you can check in and laugh or ignore it completely as background noise. The real question is does the cast do enough to elevate the middling plot. Since, I am pretty ambivalent about it, I guess Knives Out gets only a handful of popcorn from me as well. However, I would be on board for another Benoit Blanc movie in the future.