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MUSIC REVIEW

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Edwin Aboryo
Edwin Aboryo

The Secrets Behind Knives Out, the Best Mystery Film of 2019


Knives Out: A Deliciously Entertaining Whodunnit




If you love mystery and comedy films, you should definitely check out Knives Out, a 2019 film written and directed by Rian Johnson, who also serves as a co-producer. It follows master detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) investigating the death of the patriarch of a wealthy, dysfunctional family. The film features an ensemble cast that includes Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer.


Knives Out is a homage to the Agatha Christie whodunnits that Johnson loved as a child, but with a modern twist that subverts the genre tropes and makes brilliant use of Johnson's stellar ensemble. It is a film that is both clever and fun, full of twists and turns, humor and suspense.




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In this article, we will explore the inspiration behind Knives Out, how it was made, how it was received by critics and audiences, and what to expect from its sequels.


The Inspiration Behind Knives Out




Johnson conceived Knives Out in 2005 after reading an Agatha Christie novel and wondering how he could make a contemporary version of it. He decided to make the film after completing Looper in 2012.


"I've been an Agatha Christie nut since I was a kid," Johnson said in an interview with Collider. " I've always loved the structure of them, the way they're puzzles, but they're also character pieces. And I love the theatricality of them, the fact that they're very much aware of being entertainment."


Johnson was also inspired by the films based on Christie's novels, such as Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Death on the Nile (1978), and Evil Under the Sun (1982), which featured all-star casts and exotic locations. He wanted to create a similar experience for modern audiences, but with a twist that would challenge their expectations.


"I wanted to make something that had the feel of an Agatha Christie, but that was updated with modern-day politics and modern-day tensions, and that also kind of used the whodunnit as a way to kind of put a twist on it," Johnson said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.


The Making of Knives Out




Johnson wrote the screenplay for Knives Out in 2017, and sold it to distributors during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. He said he wrote the script very quickly, in about six months, because he had a clear vision of what he wanted to do.


"It was one of those rare instances where I had the whole movie in my head before I started writing. I knew who all the characters were, I knew what the basic setup was, I knew what the basic twist was," Johnson said in an interview with IndieWire.


Knives Out cast and crew


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Johnson then assembled a stellar ensemble cast that included Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, a private detective hired by an anonymous client to investigate the death of Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), a famous crime novelist and the patriarch of a wealthy family. The family members are all suspects in Harlan's death, and they include his daughter Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), her husband Richard (Don Johnson), their son Ransom (Chris Evans), Harlan's son Walt Thrombey (Michael Shannon), his wife Donna (Riki Lindhome), their son Jacob (Jaeden Martell), Harlan's daughter-in-law Joni Thrombey (Toni Collette), her daughter Meg (Katherine Langford), Harlan's nurse Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), and two detectives assigned to the case, Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan).


Johnson said he was very lucky to get such a talented cast, and that he wrote some of the roles with specific actors in mind, such as Craig, Evans, and de Armas. He also said he enjoyed working with them and giving them room to improvise and have fun.


"They were all so game for it. They were all so excited to be part of this kind of movie. And they all brought so much to it. They all brought their own sense of humor, their own sense of style, their own sense of character," Johnson said in an interview with Variety.


Johnson filmed Knives Out from October to December 2018 in Massachusetts and other locations. The main setting of the film is a gothic mansion that belongs to Harlan Thrombey, which Johnson said he found after scouting hundreds of houses. He said he wanted the mansion to have a character of its own, and that he filled it with props and details that reflected Harlan's personality and history.


"The house is almost like a Clue board come to life. It's full of secret passages and hidden rooms and all sorts of stuff like that. And every inch of it is covered with stuff from Harlan's books. There are knives everywhere, there are statues of dogs, there are paintings of his characters. It's like a museum of his life," Johnson said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. The Reception of Knives Out




Knives Out premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019, and received a standing ovation from the audience. It was theatrically released in the United States on November 27 by Lionsgate Films, and in other countries by other distributors.


Knives Out received universal acclaim from critics and audiences, who praised its screenplay, direction, and acting. It has a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 462 reviews, with an average rating of 8.6/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Knives Out sharpens old murder-mystery tropes with a keenly assembled suspense outing that makes brilliant use of writer-director Rian Johnson's stellar ensemble."


It also has a score of 82 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 52 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". The film was also a box office success, grossing $311.9 million worldwide on a $40 million budget, making it one of the most profitable films of 2019.


Knives Out was named one of the top ten films of 2019 by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute. It also received three nominations at the 77th Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Best Actor Musical or Comedy for Craig, and Best Actress Musical or Comedy for de Armas. It also received Best Original Screenplay nominations at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards and the 92nd Academy Awards.


The Sequels to Knives Out




In March 2021, Netflix paid $469 million for the rights to two sequels written and directed by Johnson, with Craig reprising his role as Benoit Blanc. Johnson said he was excited to continue the adventures of Blanc and explore new mysteries with new casts.


"I had such a good time making this movie with Daniel Craig and such a great cast. And we had so much fun that when we were done, I was like, 'Let's do another one.' And Daniel was like, 'Yeah, let's do another one.' And so we just kind of kept talking about it. And then Netflix came along and said, 'Hey, we'll make two more of these.' And we were like, 'OK, let's do it,'" Johnson said in an interview with Deadline.


The first sequel is called Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, and follows Blanc as he investigates a new mystery in Greece with a new cast that includes Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Dave Bautista, and Ethan Hawke.


It was released on Netflix on Dec. 23 after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. It also had a theatrical run in select theaters to qualify for awards season.


Glass Onion received positive reviews from critics and audiences, who praised its plot, humor, and performances. It has a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 156 reviews, with an average rating of 7.8/10. The website's critics consensus reads, "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery delivers another satisfying slice of whodunnit fun with Rian Johnson's sharp script and Daniel Craig's charismatic lead."


It also has a score of 79 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 38 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". The film was also a commercial success for Netflix, becoming one of its most-watched original films ever.


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