Movie Monday: Knives Out (2019)
It’s not uncommon for film directors to deliver failed movies. They can either fall into the trap of an uncontrollable production or misinterpret the response of their target audience. However, these same filmmakers can often experience a turning point – as if spurred by the disaster of their previous work – and will bounce back with some great, and perhaps even generation-defining movies. Such notable examples include Martin Scorsese with From New York, New York (1977) to Raging Bull (1980); George Miller with Happy Feet Two (2011) to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and one of the more recent examples, Rian Johnson with Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) to Knives Out (2019).
Upon release, Knives Out received critical and commercial acclaim with critics and filmgoers praising it as a subversive masterpiece. Even other filmmaking giants praised the film with director Edgar Wright from Shaun of the Dead (2004), citing the story as “fiendishly plotted.” This re-established Johnson as a director to watch for the filmgoing public after the backlash from The Last Jedi. Though a commercial success, The Last Jedi proved divisive with die-hard fans and films critics panning the story and the characters, losing all interest in the ongoing trilogy. When Knives Out was released, it received almost unanimous praise with nominations for Best Motion Picture, Actor and Actress during the Golden Globes that year, as well as Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars and BAFTA awards. However, when you stop to analyse it, you find yourself asking the same question of other acclaimed films, is it worth the hype?
The film takes place entirely in Massachusetts where wealthy crime novelist and family patriarch, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead in his home, the morning after his 85th birthday. At first, this appears to be an open-and-shut suicide, but an anonymous individual has hired world-renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), suggesting the elderly patriarch was murdered by one of the partygoers. The detective is assisted by Harlan’s nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) and they must work together to untangle the various red herrings and lies of the Thrombey family who all had apparent motive, to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s demise. Unbeknownst to Blanc, Marta has secrets about the case she is keeping from him, but as the mystery unfolds, the pair realise the truth is more complex than either one believes.
During the opening act, Knives Out appears as another typical 'whodunit' film. It takes place in an old mansion with several characters inspired by the pieces on a Clue board who are all interviewed to discuss the night before Harlan's death. However, with the mystery film genre comprising of Agatha Christie adaptations or another Sherlock Holmes retelling, it's refreshing to see a modern take on the elements of the genre by deconstructing its narrative. As we see the different stories unravel, it's clear Johnson was inspired by the hallmarks of popular mystery authors, but rather than parody or plagiarise them, he creates a tribute to their characters and settings with an original story meant for the big screen. Another unique aspect of the film is the humour and self-awareness; though many believe these conventions have no place in a murder mystery, Johnson's style of humour never cheapens the narrative or its characters. Yes, there are twists, commonly expected of the genre, but none of them feels forced or overdone, and while you may predict one, you may not predict the next, so you will feel smart, and yet surprised by the conclusion. It's a classic fun film of its type.
When Knives Out was marketed, the most obvious promotion tactic was star power. The cast list featured a phenomenal line-up with stars from different generations of film, from experienced veterans to rising talent. Daniel Craig and Chris Evans appear as the modern blockbuster stars known for their roles as the recent incarnation of James Bond and Captain America, respectively. On the veteran's side, we have Jaime Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, and Don Johnson whose careers span back to the 1960s/70s, with their work spanning across many genres. The rising stars include actors who have featured in more recent films with Ana de Armas who played Joi in Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and Jaeden Martell who was cast as Bill Denbrough in It (2017). With stars of all varieties present in the same picture, they guaranteed Knives Out would have a vast and equally diverse audience. However, the film, unfortunately, fell into the trap most films with all-star casts are notorious for; not utilising all their stars to maximum effect.
While Craig, Evans, De Armas and Plummer are featured in main roles, the remainder of the cast is only given two or three prominent scenes before being pushed aside once the narrative starts moving forward or until they are needed again. While it may have been necessary to stay focused on the plot and not the subplots, the fact these stars, while they give amazing performances and are key to the narrative, are reduced to supporting characters in an unfortunate loss for the film. This could have been resolved by including more scenes that focused on these characters or casting other stars who are better suited for supporting characters. The first option may be the best as Johnson could keep the star power while using them properly.
Another part of the film that deserves an honourable mention is the music. The score is composed by Nathan Johnson, Rian Johnson’s cousin and frequent collaborator who worked with him on Brick (2005), The Brothers Bloom (2008), and Looper (2012). If you’ve seen any of these films, you know what to expect. Though Knives Out is different to what Nathan has done before, using a full orchestra to deliver a cutting and sharp score, its powerful symphonies are equal parts haunting, playful and surprising. The accompanying orchestra marries well with the script to create and meticulous collaboration that proves both Johnsons’ are well-versed in their crafts to deliver a nail-biting, surprising, and at times, humorous film.
After reviewing this picture, it’s clear that Knives Out is similar to Blanc’s accent, you either like it or hate it. I’m pleased to say that while far from perfect, the film is an enjoyable watch from start to finish. While I have some criticisms with how the characters were used, it doesn’t subtract from the quality of the story, creating a suspenseful and charismatic tribute to earlier murder-mystery films. This film also reaffirmed my faith in Rian Johnson as a storyteller and film director, and I look forward to seeing what he will create next.
｡* ♡｡ before & after coloring tag game,
[ does walk of shame ] ok so . i did this game first around two ? three months ago and not much has changed since but also a lot has changed since then lmao back then i said that i went unnecessarily overboard with my colorings and that they were incredibly inconsistent .. currently they are still like that except i’ve embraced both facts . it’s ok to be extra and inconsistent . sexy even ! but i’ve definitely come to accept that my colorings will never be consistent and that i won’t ever be able to give up my twenty layers of selective colors and i love that for me because i think the key point of my gifs / colorings are exactly that ? compared to months ago i enjoy the color swaps i do in my gifs, and i essentially love that the faded thing i do with the blacks has become my signature. i’ve only recently started doing my own colorings from scratch and i think it has been a rlly big learning experience for me and i’m glad with what i’ve been able to come up with so far ~ ♥
i was tagged by @bangtanger ( @eternal-bangtan ), @parksnghoon and @lovehyunggus. thank you so much loves, and all of your colorings are equally amazing and so are you !! i am tagging um checks notes who hasn’t done this . sweats @gyukai, @jaehyukkies, @sunnhoon, @yooyizhuo, @yjunies, @soofairys, @choibeomgyus, @yangjungwon, @slipped-away, @leedk, @soppa .. if y’all have already done this please don’t mind me i truly am always late to the party
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