Despite what you may have heard, “Knives Out” is not the next “Clue”. Is it funny? At times. Is it smart? Absolutely. Is it a spoof? Most assuredly not. While it may at times send up the tropes of murder mysteries past, it isn’t the focus of the piece. Rather, it’s a deep look at racism, immigration, politics, the class system, and the power of kindness, all wrapped up in a family crime drama.
Sounds like a lot, but the script by Rian Johnson (of Star Wars fame, yes) is one of the best I have encountered in the last several years. It’s lean, yet lush, clever without drawing attention to the fact, and packed with emotional intelligence. If you can’t take my word for it, Edgar Wright considers it the best film of 2019. He is responsible for directing such films as “Shaun of the Dead”, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”, and “The Adventures of Tintin”, among other blockbusters.
The premise of “Knives Out” on the surface appears to be a simple one — the family patriarch has died, and a detective is called in to solve the seemingly unsolvable case. One thinks of Hercule Poirot, drawn to untangle familial relationships in order to ascertain the killer’s identity. Daniel Craig’s performance as Benoit Blanc is reminiscent of Poirot’s in that it considers humanity as something to be studied and understood, complex and yet elegant in its design.
The rest of the cast is at least on par with Craig’s performance — Jame Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Christopher Plummer, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Lakeith Stanfield, Riki Lindhome, Jaeden Martell, Katherine Langford, Frank Oz, Don Johnson, Edi Patterson, and my personal favorite, Ana de Armas, all bring incredibly crafted three dimensional characters to the story.
The design choices help cement “Knives Out” in classic murder mystery territory. There’s a 1970’s-esque style about it (even in the font choice for the title), from the family’s estate to the clothing choices for each character. “Classic” is probably going to be thrown about a lot when discussing “Knives Out” because I do believe it will become that with time. It has all the elements of a classic — including its message about the power of human kindness and its ability to overcome all that is thrown in its way.
The main character Marta is a young woman hired as a nurse and companion for the family patriarch. Though the Thrombeys consider her “one of the family”, it becomes clear as the story continues that while the words might be said, they’re more to pat themselves on the back than actually extend a familial hand to Marta and her own family.
What I loved most about “Knives Out” (other than the last shot, which was delicious justice) was that the most powerful thing in the end was kindness. It doesn’t matter where we come from, who our family is, or how we survive in this world, it’s the kindness that we extend toward ourselves and others that matters. By utilizing our kindness to reach out, we become involved in others’ lives, we become part of their story, and we become better people.
This is what we need more of in the world. Kindness allows us to consider things from others’ point of view, to reach out and think about others instead of just ourselves. It makes us capable of great things, world-changing things. Whether your kindness is noticed or not, it makes a difference.
I urge you to watch “Knives Out” and be moved by the kindness Marta shows as well as the oblivious cruelty shown by the Thrombeys. Then look at yourself and see where you can be kinder — work to break down the class system, end racism and horrible immigration policies. No matter how small our lives are, the kindness we extend to ourselves and others is magnified and made magnificent. Each act of kindness matters.
If you’d like to be entertained as well as inspired, you can watch “Knives Out” now on Amazon Prime.