Thursday, January 2, 2020

Murder Mystery

Knives Out
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Christopher Plummer, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Katherine Langford
Released: November 27, 2019
Viewed in theaters: December 19, 2019

Since this movie has only been out for a month and I'm sure there are plenty of people who have yet to see it, I will review this movie without spoilers first, then I will have a separate portion for spoilers. Believe me, this is the kind of movie you want to see without being spoiled as it is a murder mystery and half the fun is trying to determine "whodunnit". I highly recommend that you watch it. I was thoroughly entertained throughout the film and you could tell the actors were having a lot of fun too.

You probably already know the basic plot: the patriarch of a wealthy family has been found dead the night of his 85th birthday when all of his family were there celebrating with him, so any of them could be suspects. It is up to the detective to figure out what happened.

Christopher Plummer plays Harlan Thrombey, the mystery writer who is found dead with his throat slashed. Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc, the detective hired by somebody in the family (we don't find out until the end) to figure out how he died. When he first spoke, it took me a few seconds for my brain to register he was talking in a Southern accent since I'm so acclimated to hearing him with a British accent that I just assumed he was speaking with one, but no, it's quite a thick Southern accent! I loved the moment when he is referred to as "CSI: KFC". Since Harlan's family was at his home the night before for his party and spent the night at his massive home, they are all considered suspects: The players include:

-Harlan's daughter, Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her husband, Richard (Don Johnson). She is a successful real estate agent mogul and her husband helps her run her company. Their son goes by Ransom (Chris Evans), who left the party early.

-Harlan's son, Walt (Michael Shannon) his wife, Donna, and his teen son, Jacob. Walt is the CEO of his father's publishing company. His wife is mostly in the background and doesn't really have any lines and you kind of forget about her with all the other loud, colorful characters. Because of her invisibility, I did assume she might be the murderer...but I won't tell you if she is or isn't!

-Harlan's daughter-in-law, Joni (Toni Collette) and her daughter, Meg (Katherine Langford (she was the main character in 13 Reasons Why)). Joni was married to a son of Harlan's who died. She still stays in touch with her husband's side of the family, but more for the money than anything else.

-Harlan's mother. Yes! The mother of an eighty-five year old man was still alive. That seemed pretty absurd to me. Nobody knows how old she is. I never even considered her as the murderer...or was she? Dun, dun, dun! Again, I won't tell you if she is or isn'!

-Harlan's nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas) who has a good relationship with him. There is a running joke that nobody in the Thrombey family knows where she's from because we hear she's from different South American countries like Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil.

-Harlan's housekeeper, Fran.

When Blanc interviews each person, you hear them tell their version of the story, but then a flashback of the party is shown and you see what really happened. Most of them have tweaked their stories just a tad. We see quite a few people could have a reason to murder Harlan. We see Harlan tell Walt that he no longer wants him as CEO of his company, we see Harlan tell Joni that he knows she's been taking the money that's supposed to be for her daughter's school and he will no longer be giving her any more, and we see him tell Richard that he's aware that he's cheating on Linda and unless Richard tells her about it, he will.

So I just assumed we would get plenty of clues (and red herrings!) and by the end there would be enough information to determine who the murderer was. Imagine my surprise when it is revealed what happed in the middle of the movie. I knew there had to be a catch: either we weren't getting the true story or either there was more to the story than we were told. There's a very amusing speech from Blanc when he does figure out what actually happens and calls it "a donut hole within a donut hole". Not exactly sure where he was going with that, but it gave me a chuckle.

Okay, starting here I will begin my spoiler warning, so if you haven't seen the movie, you should stop reading right now! I repeat, spoilers start now. If you haven't seen this movie and do not want to be spoiled, then stop reading now! You have been warned! And you should really see this movie without being spoiled! Major spoilers ahoy!

So before I get to the spoiler of who murdered Harlan, there's another scene that might be considered slightly spoiler-y. (Hence the reason I have it after my spoiler warning!) The entire family plus Marta has gathered at the house to hear the will reading of their late father/grandfather. They're all excitedly speculating amongst themselves who will get what and how much each of them will get what. To their shock and anger, Harlan has left his fortune and publishing company to Marta. (I would be pretty upset too if I were them!) There's a funny moment when Linda snarls at Marta to get out of their house, then she turns to the lawyer (played by Frank Oz) and asks him, "This is still our home, right?" and he proceeds to tell them that the mansion now belongs to Marta. He left everything to his nurse.

While all this is going on, Ransom has a s**t-eating grin on his face. During the interrogations the previous day, everyone said he left the party early, storming out of his grandfather's office, after having a heated conversation with Harlan. Because he was gone during the time of Harlan's death, he was ruled out as a suspect and wasn't interviewed. We learn that Harlan had told him he was cut out of the will, but what the others didn't know is that he knew Marta was getting everything, so he was enjoying their looks of disbelief as the will was being read.

Ransom helps Marta get away and she ends up confessing everything to him because she feels she can trust him. (I mean, if you can't trust Captain America, then who can you trust, right?) In the flashback, we learn that Marta was the reason Hanson died; accidentally, of course. The two medications for him got knocked off the table and she accidentally administrated him a much larger dose of morphine than was intended when she meant to give him regular medication. She only meant to give a little dose of morphine. The camera lingers when we see Marta injecting Harlan with the needles so I figured this was the real reason of his death (even though we see him with his throat slashed!) Naturally, Marta is freaking out as she is (unsuccessfully) trying to search for the antidote in her bag. She tells him that she needs to give it to him within the next ten minutes or he will die, When she can't find him, she goes to call 9-1-1, but he stops her, telling her the ambulance won't make it in time since they are in the middle of nowhere. He knows Marta will be blamed for his death and since he knows her mother is an illegal immigrant, he doesn't want anything to happen to her. Being the mystery writer he is, he comes up with an intricate plan (within a matter of minutes, mind you) where she should make a big deal of leaving and stating the time, then sneak back into the house (coming through a secret window) and put on his robe and come down for a snack so people will think he's still alive at the time. Since I've only seen this movie once, the details are a little fuzzy for me. I feel like you can probably catch a lot of little details with re-watches. He the proceeds to slit his own throat (at first, his death is considered a suicide...which I guess is technically true). Being that he left all of his possessions to Marta and was willing to take his own life, he obviously thought a lot of her.

We find out that Ransom learned about a slayer clause which means if the person who the inheritance of the deceased is intended to go to is found guilty of that person's death, then they will not receive anything (seems like a good idea to have that in place!) His plan is to make sure Marta doesn't get anything. He actually had switched the labels of the two medications and had taken the antidote from Marta's bag. So, when Marta gave Harlan what she thought was the wrong medication, it was actually the right stuff (because she was so used to the weight of the bottle of something like that, it just came second nature to her, but when she read the label, she freaked out). Ironically, Harlan was never in any danger of dying and slit his throat for nothing. That may have been the real twist to this whole thing!

I love the ending shot where see Marta on the upper deck of the house looking down below at the Thrombey family while sipping from Harlan's mug which reads, "My coffee, my house, my rules." It was a nice callback to when we first see that mug in one of the very first shots of the movie and it was   gave me a good laugh.

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