Over the past week, I thought about what my first movie review of 2022 would be. Was I going to select a title from my DVR or choose a film that has been recommended to me? I knew that whatever movie I picked, it was probably going to set the tone for the rest of the year. Well, I just saw the 2019 production, Knives Out. This is a movie I had heard of because of its mixed reviews. If I’m going to be honest, it was a film I was originally planning to avoid. A few years ago, I saw the 2017 adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. Without spoiling the story, I will say the ending made me not like the film. When I heard about Knives Out, I assumed it was going to let me down like Murder on the Orient Express did. But is that what really happened? Keep reading, as I’m about to start my first movie review of the year!
Things I liked about the film:
Ana de Armas’ performance: When I watch a movie that features an ensemble cast, I sometimes look for the performance that stood out among the rest. In Knives Out, that performance came from Ana de Armas! A variety of situations can happen in a mystery story. Therefore, you need actors or actresses who will respond to those events through their acting talents. With Ana’s portrayal of Marta, she was able to express a wide range of emotions, showcasing how versatile her acting abilities are. One great example happens in a tense scene with Marta and a member of the Thrombey family. Because a traumatic situation happens during that scene, Marta responds by holding back a scream and trying to fight back tears. That emotional response helped Ana’s performance appear realistic!
The set design: Because the majority of Knives Out takes place at Harlan Thrombey’s house, I will focus on this location in this part of my review. Harlan’s house was one of the most impressive structures in film! The exterior adopted a Victorian style that boasted warm brown brick. But the house’s interior is where the set design shines! The winding staircase in the main foyer is paired with railings in a rich dark wood. Almost every crevice displays either a statue, souvenir, or book. This specific detail gave the space its own personality. Some of the windows showcased stained glass designs, with at least one bearing intricate images. There were even secret compartments! Harlan Thrombey’s house was truly any mystery writer’s dream!
Not showing a complete picture: Within the first half of the movie, the police question members of the Thrombey family, as well as people connected to the Thrombeys. When each character is sharing their side of the story, the audience gets to see what happened in flash backs. But it’s important to point out how each character’s perspective was different. When a situation happens, whether real or fictional, there are various sides of that story. That causes the overall picture to not be complete, no matter how many perspectives are shared. For Knives Out, this part of the script felt realistic. It reminds the audience how they don’t always receive a complete narrative, especially since they weren’t present during the actual event.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Little to no interactivity: I, personally, like mystery films where the story allows the audience to solve a case alongside the characters. But Knives Out had the same flaw Sherlock Holmes in New York did: featuring little to no interactivity in the script. In the first half of the film, the story is exposition-heavy. Along with character backstories and flash backs explaining what happened, the story reveals “whodunit”. Since all this took place within the movie’s first half, it felt like the screenwriter spoon-fed the information to the viewers instead of letting them figure things out. While there is a twist toward the end of the film, I feel it would have been more effective had the rest of the story allowed the audience to participate in the mystery.
The Thrombey family’s dysfunctionality: Stories featuring family dysfunctionality can be hit or miss. They can either be heart-warming and somewhat silly, like the television show, The Middle, or painfully unenjoyable, like the Hallmark Hall of Fame film, Back When We Were Grown-Ups. In the case of Knives Out, the Thrombey family’s dysfunctionality was somewhere in between. I understand this was meant to create tension among the characters and provide them with possible motives. However, there were times when the dysfunctionality was overbearing. It got to the point where it not only overshadowed the mystery, but some parts of the story felt like they belonged in a drama. In my opinion, I think some of this dysfunctionality should have been toned down.
Weaker characters: In my list of the top ten worst movies I saw in 2021, I talked about how I didn’t like Raising Arizona. Two of my reasons were a) the characters were not charming or likable enough to make their dysfunctionality tolerable for the audience and b) the characters were one-dimensional and uninteresting. Knives Out’s Thrombey family experienced a similar flaw. These characters lacked depth, as they were each defined by one aspect. It also didn’t help how they were so similar to one another. All of the older family members were successful to varying degrees. Meanwhile, the younger family members simply enjoyed the fruits of their parents’ or grandparents’ labor. Because the characters were weak, the dysfunctionality was less tolerable for the audience, as the characters weren’t able to make up for that.
My overall impression:
Mysteries are one of the most popular genres on 18 Cinema Lane. The creativity and intrigue found in this genre make these types of stories interesting. Speaking of interesting, I find it such a coincidence how Knives Out is the first movie I reviewed in 2022. The reason is Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver was the first film I wrote about in 2020, written on January 8th. But I did not enjoy Knives Out as much as the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries title. One of the issues lay in the story’s little to no interactivity, as I felt like I was just watching characters do things. While the mystery itself contained interesting components, such as not giving the audience a complete picture of what happened, it could have been stronger. The Thrombey family’s dysfunctionality also could have been toned down. But there were parts of Knives Out I did like, such as Ana de Armas’ performance and Harlan’s house. With that said, I thought the movie was ok.
Overall score: 6 out of 10
Do you like watching mystery films? If so, are there mystery movies you’re looking forward to seeing? Let me know in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!