- Daniel Craig's Knives Out character pays homage to 1972's Sleuth, and more Easter eggs from the film this link is to an external site that may or may not meet accessibility guidelines.
- Knives Out is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic elements including brief violence, some strong language, sexual references, and drug material Violence: A man is seen dead, with blood around his body and a knife on the floor. People shout at one another and make threats. A man stabs a woman in the chest.
Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is a wildly successful mystery writer and he’s dead. His housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson) finds him with a slit throat and the knife still in his hand. It looks like suicide, but there are some questions. After all, who really slits their own throat? A couple of cops (the wonderful pair of LaKeith Stanfield and Noah Segan) come to the Thrombey estate do a small investigation, just to make sure they’re not missing anything, and the film opens with their conversations with each of the Thrombey family members. Daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) is a successful businesswoman with a shit husband named Richard (Don Johnson) and an awful son named Ransom (Chris Evans). Son Walt (Michael Shannon) runs the publishing side, but he’s been fighting a lot with dear old dad. Daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette) is deep into self-help but has been helping herself by ripping off the old man. Finally, there’s Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), the real heroine of “Knives Out” and Harlan’s most trusted confidante. Can she help solve the case?
The case may have just been closed if not for the arrival of the famous detective Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig, who spins a southern drawl and oversized ego into something instantly memorable. Blanc was delivered a news story about the suicide and envelope of money. So someone thinks this is fishy. Why? And who? The question of who brought in Blanc drives the narrative as much as who killed Harlan. Johnson is constantly presenting viewers with the familiar, especially fans of the mystery movie—the single palatial setting, the family of monsters, the exaggerated detective—but then he subverts them every so slightly, and it feels fresh. So while Blanc feels like a Poirot riff, Johnson and Craig avoid turning it into a caricature of something we’ve seen before.
Related: Knives Out Cast: Every Actor In Rian Johnson's New Movie. Before the morphine overdose could kill him, Harlan slit his own throat to make his death look like a suicide rather than an accident. However, the ending of Knives Out reveals that his death was no accident. It was brought about through the actions of Ransom, who had conspired.
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Craig is delightful—I love the excitement in his voice when he figures things out late in the film—but some of the cast gets lost. It’s inevitable with one this big, but if you’re going to “Knives Out” for a specific actor or actress, be aware that it’s a large ensemble piece and your fave may get short shrift. Unless your favorite is Ana de Armas, who is really the heart of the movie, allowing Johnson to imbue “Knives Out” with some wonderful political commentary. The Thrombeys claim to love Marta, even if they can’t remember which South American country she comes from, and Don Johnson gets a few razor sharp scenes as the kind of guy who rants about immigration before quoting “Hamilton.” It’s not embedded in the entire piece as much as “Get Out,” but this “Out” is similar in the way it uses genre structure to say something about wealth and social inequality. And in terms of performance, the often-promising de Armas has never been handed a role this big, and she totally delivers.
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While the star-studded cast alone might be enough to draw audiences into theaters for Knives Out (opening Nov. 27), the mystery at its center is what's keeping them in their seats, if early reviews are anything to go by. At its core, it's a 'whodunit' mystery, with a veritable mansion full of people trying to figure out who murdered a famous novelist. It's a premise that sounds like it was pulled right from any murder mystery novel, but Knives Out isn't actually based on a specific book. The story just feels incredibly familiar, and it owes that familiarity to some classic mystery literature and a certain cult film.
Like any good murder mystery, it's probably best to go into Knives Out completely blind. That way, the twists and turns that are the bread and butter of the mystery genre can feel all the more surprising and suspenseful. But just in case that's not how you operate, here's a little more context: In Knives Out, famous novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) invites his family to join him in his mansion for his 85th birthday party. But the morning after the party, they find Harlan dead. It falls to famous detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) to sort through each family member's possible motives for murdering Harlan and figure out who might have killed him.
If that premise sounds familiar, it's because it should. In a chat with Variety, director Rian Johnson cited his love of a specific author's work when developing Knives Out. 'I grew up reading Agatha Christie’s books,' he said. 'I wanted to make a whodunit for forever. Ten years ago, I had a very basic idea for this and have just had it cooking ever since.' Christie, a famous mystery novel author who published 66 mystery novels between 1920 and 1976, was the creator of Hercule Poirot, a fictional Belgian police detective who, in the vein of Sherlock Holmes, was said to be 'one of the greatest detectives of all time.' As mentioned in the trailer, detective Benoit Blanc carries a similar reputation, and the circumstances surrounding his investigations carry thematic similarities to Poirot's. As Johnson told Empire Magazine, 'Benoit Blanc has some of the elements of Poirot, in that he’s a bit self-inflated, but there’s a warmth to him which shines through with Daniel [Craig].'
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But the similarities to other beloved mysteries don't stop at Christie. The film has drawn comparisons to 1985's Clue, which was a cult classic murder mystery parody based on the board game. There, in similar fashion, a group of six people (albeit strangers, not family) are invited to a mansion for dinner. But after the host turns up dead, it's up to them to find out who the killer is before they strike again. Clue has more of a parodic, comedic tone, which contrasts with Knives Out, as Johnson notes in a chat with Vulture. 'I had to make very clear to everybody that we’re not doing Clue,' he said. 'It’s not an arch parody. It’s going to be fun and it’s going to be funny, but the goal here is to do something that has the actual pleasures of the genre.' Judging by early reviews of Knives Out, it seems he's succeeded.