Knives Out Review The Buff and The Blazer
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is one of the best-executed screenplays of 2019. From beginning to end, it is clear how much care was taken with every detail on the page. The murder mystery element of the story is carefully tracked and neatly unfolded. Scenes are dense with audible and visual hints. As a result, Knives Out has high re-watch value. We will break down a few of those moments in the film that exemplify that air-tight attention to detail.
One of the simpler moments in the film that is the result of a single line, has to do with Benoit Blanc’s (Daniel Craig) “doughnut” metaphor. Near the conclusion of the case, Blanc refers to one missing piece of the puzzle as a hole in the center of a doughnut. The “doughnut hole” he refers to is the anonymous person who hired him. If we examine imagery throughout the film, we find many visual metaphors referring to that doughnut hole. An obvious one is the circular display of knives in Harlan’s (Christopher Plummer) mansion. That set-piece plays a part in the film’s overall climax.
An old baseball thrown out the window that Blanc finds in the lawn is another solid visual cue of the doughnut hole. He keeps the baseball in his pocket halfway through the film then throws the ball back to the dogs. At the end of the film, Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) places the ball back on its stand. The mystery has been solved and the doughnut hole is filled.
As the case unfolds, there are a series of clues and hints that lead to the resolution of the story. The continuity of each element is a testament to good direction from Rian Johnson. As Marta (Ana de Armas) recalls the events of the night in her head, we see her climbing in through a window. She comes in cleanly and upon the first watch, there are no significant details. We eventually find out that there were traces of mud on the ledge and carpet. Those traces were actually left by Ransom (Chris Evans). The camera clearly shows him brushing his foot on the ledge before Marta.
Another clue that goes unnoticed at the time is Ransom’s expression when Marta confesses to him that she mixed up the vials of medicine for Harlan. He is reacting to the fact that she actually administered the proper medication since he swapped them out beforehand. These are just a few examples of the effective managing of details by Rian Johnson.
A final and key moment worth pointing out is a line delivered by Harlan in his study. While speaking to Marta, Harlan states that he sees a lot of himself in Ransom. He says that he plays life recklessly like a game to the point where he couldn’t “tell the difference between a stage prop and a real knife.” That one line has a huge payoff at the end of the film when Ransom attempts to stab a character with a fake knife. It is the perfect culmination of everything that was set up to that moment and features the doughnut-like assortment of knives in the background. Rian Johnson has crafted a solid story and executed it with great precision leaving no holes in the doughnut.
Knives Out is available on disc and digital now!
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