Knives Out ~ A Capsule Movie Review

Knives Out ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

Knives Out is an old-fashioned murder mystery in the style of English mystery writer Agatha Christie. Benoit Blanc (played by the versatile Daniel Craig, with a Southern drawl right out of Old Virginny), is the astonishingly perceptive, methodical, deceptively unflappable detective. He is in the style of Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot, without the elaborate mustache and the Belgian accent, of course. (Benoit comes from the Latin word “benedictus,” which means “the one who says the good.” Blanc is the French word for “white.”)

Harlan Thrombey (played by Christopher Plummer) is the eighty-five-year-old patriarch of the Thrombey family. As a successful writer of murder mysteries, he has amassed a fortune in excess of sixty million dollars. He lives with his family in a gloomy, spacious, Massachusetts country house.

Since Harland Thrombey is getting along in years, all his children and grandchildren are mightily concerned for his welfare. He is, don’t you know, the Goose that Lays the Golden Eggs. Nobody in the family has to hold down a job because Harlan Thrombey, the wealthy writer of murder mysteries, supports all of them in grand style.

Harlan Thrombey’s son, Walt, ostensibly runs the family publishing business, but all he does he does is publish his father’s twice-yearly books. Daughter Linda and her husband, Richard, seem to do nothing except stand around and talk (she smokes cigarettes) and keep an eye on the old man, the source of all “their” wealth. Linda and Richard have a son in his mid-thirties, Ransome. He’s handsome, dissolute and unscrupulous. Harlan’s daughter-in-law, Joni, is a flaky matron who was once married to Harlan’s now-deceased son. She knows where her bread is buttered. She has been “double-dipping” her daughter Meg’s tuition money to an expensive school (cheating her generous father-in-law) to the tune of a hundred thousand dollars a year.

On the night of Harlan Thrombey eighty-fifth birthday party, he ends up dead, apparently murdered, with his throat cut. The last person to see him alive is his immigrant nurse from Uruguay, a young woman named Marta Cabrera. The family treats her as one of them. She seems to be the only one in the group who genuinely cares for Harlan Thrombey without any selfish motives.

There are plenty of suspects with reason enough to want to see the old man dead, aren’t there? Hours before he died, he threatened to cut off his over-indulged grandson Ransome without a penny. Hours before he died, he discovered that his daughter-in-law Joni was cheating him out of a considerable amount of money and also threatened to cast her out into the cruel world without a penny. Hours before he died, he had a little talk with this son-in-law Richard to the effect that he knew that Richard was cheating on his wife, Linda. Hours before he died, he threatened to remove his son Walt from the publishing company. Wouldn’t any of them, or any of the others, for that matter, have reason enough to want to see the old man dead?

Enter aforementioned Benoit Blanc. He sees right away what a bunch of greedy, grasping, self-serving assholes the Thrombeys are. “I am eliminating no one as a suspect,” he drawls. If anybody can figure out who killed Harlan Thrombey, Benoit Blanc can.

Knives Out is a story that relies heavily on character and the spoken word. There are plenty of twists and wrong turns in the story but, never fear, the truth will be revealed in the end. If you’re used to lots of action, gunshots and screeching tires in your movies, then Knives Out probably isn’t the movie for you. Let’s just say it’s geared toward the older, and calmer, audience.

Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp

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