Movie Review: Knives Out

By Lauren Cohen

Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, plays a clever twist on old murder mystery whodunit stories, the kind often filled with mystery, suspense, and unpredictable events. 

From the first moments of the movie, the viewer finds themselves in a large New England mansion, home to a wealthy mystery writer, Harlan Thrombrey who is about to celebrate his 85th birthday. The home is filled with many of his family members, each peculiar in their own way. On the surface, things seem to be very calm but one can feel considerable tension between them. Throughout the story, this tension builds as each family member has selfish motives tied to their expected inheritance of Harlan’s money. Each of the children have careers that were largely made possible because of his wealth. They hover around him like vultures waiting for his death. As the birthday party progresses, Harlan retreats to his study upstairs where he begins to get ready to go to sleep and is given his medicine. Later that night, he is found dead with a slit throat and a knife in his hand. 

The family and local police inspectors are quick to conclude that it was a suicide. However, in the company of the investigators is a well dressed man with a distinctive southern accent that no one seems to know. He listens intently as each family member is interviewed by the police. From the onset, he has doubts that this was a suicide since someone anymyous hired him to invistage the death of Harlan Thombrey. From this point, the story takes many twists and turns as the audience, along with the southern detective, attempt to navigate and find the truth to what happened that night. 

The movie shares some characteristics of an Agatha Christie mystery and as a viewer, I felt as if I was playing a game of “Clue”. Along the way, one begins to build suspicions about different characters. The movie even provides social commentary, as one of the characters, whose mother is an undocumented immigrant, becomes a primary suspect in the case. Contrasting with her is the pettiness and greed that is obvious among the family members, as they care mainly about the execution of Harlan’s will. 

The suspense builds throughout the movie and reaches a climax at the end. You will need to watch Knives Out to discover the mystery of Harlan’s death and what happened that night. This is definitely a film that should be included in your “Movies to Watch” list. I bet Harlan Thombrey would have loved writing or reading this mystery, himself.