The mark of a good whodunit is a story that is defined by the unique characters within it rather than the mystery at its center. Knives Out—starring everyone from Jamie Lee Curtis to Chris Evans to Michael Shannon to Daniel Craig—is one such whodunit, a winding tale of murder and one wealthy, eccentric family … and their father’s eccentric caretaker … and an eccentric detective. After the mystery was revealed, The Ringer staff got together to talk it all out.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Knives Out?
Michael Baumann: Murder is bad. Joy is contagious.
Ben Lindbergh: A donut hole within a donut’s hole, but both of the donut holes are the delicious, powdered kind.
Sean Yoo: My ideal version of a murder mystery movie must now include lie-induced vomiting and a long monologue on donut holes.
Donnie Kwak: The best “whodonut” movie of the year.
Miles Surrey: If this doesn’t kick off the Benoit Blanc Cinematic Universe there will be hell to pay.
Chris Evans in Knives Out wears the same blue knit as Cameron the male Bratz doll pic.twitter.com/nhehu9MWZd— Magzstagram (@Magzstagram) December 1, 2019
Andrew Gruttadaro: Ana de Armas accidentally give me the right medication; Chris Evans strangle me with a sweater; Daniel Craig talk to me about donut holes until I perish.
2. What was the best moment of the film?
Gruttadaro: Basically any time Benoit Blanc spoke.
Surrey: Daniel Craig has a delicious monologue at the end of the film when he reveals the conspiracy/culprit, and he spends half that time straining through a donut metaphor. It’s probably the hardest I’ve laughed in a theater all year.
Baumann: Ransom’s introduction. Chris Evans had more fun in this movie than any actor in history (except Daniel Craig in this movie).
Lindbergh: The running gag about where Marta’s family is from, and Richard subconsciously handing her a plate while asking her opinion. Also, “Sweet Virginia.”
Kwak: Every time Toni Collette did anything as would-be momfluencer Joni Thrombey: “I read a tweet about a New Yorker article about you. You’re famous.”
Herman: When it becomes clear neither the Samuel Westing–style eccentric millionaire nor the Hercule Poirot–style PI is a mastermind who has it all figured out. Harlan may be brilliant and Benoit Blanc dogged, but neither is omniscient. This movie keeps the satisfying, it-all-comes-together feeling of an intricately constructed mystery while gently sanding down the myth of the white dude genius in favor of a more sympathetic heroine.
Yoo: The best moment in any murder mystery film is when the detective finally cracks the case and in Knives Out, Daniel Craig’s performance during the reveal is one of the best in the genre’s history. Detective Blanc goes into detail about exactly what Ransom did as the culprit of this crime— in extremely entertaining fashion—and when he’s done we get a perfectly timed “damn” from Lakeith Stanfield’s character, truly a chef’s kiss moment. Also within that scene, there is a reveal where Marta comes to the realization that Fran actually said “Hugh did this” instead of “You did this” and that might’ve been the hardest I laughed in the movie.
3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?
Lindbergh: When Richard brags about seeing Hamilton at the Public. I have also mentioned seeing Hamilton at the Public in casual conversation, and now I’m asking myself some uncomfortable questions.
Kwak: I thought the It kid’s role as Jacob Thrombey was a little undercooked. We were constantly told he was an aspiring alt-right troll, but never really shown it.
Yoo: The fake knife sequence fell a bit flat for me. Then again, if Ransom actually stabbed Marta we’d be having a completely different conversation.
Gruttadaro: I’m straining to remember if I had one? This movie is extremely fun and delightfully weightless—there should be more like it.
Baumann: I didn’t dislike the immigration subplot, but I’m ambivalent about it. I think it was effective in showing how awful the Thrombeys were but sometimes I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to laugh at the right things for the right reasons.
Surrey: I know the Marta car chase was intentionally lame—there was a Baby Driver joke and everything—but the Fast & Furious–ness in me is still a little bummed it wasn’t a lot cooler.
Herman: When my forever husband Michael Shannon was mean to my new wife Ana de Armas!
4. Who was the worst member of the Thrombey family?
Baumann: Ordinarily I’m more offended by subtle emotional manipulation and deceit in fictional characters than naked cartoonish evil, but … the Nazi incel teen. Clearly.
Yoo: It’s obviously Jacob, the alt-right troll who has an extremely hateable face. I can totally see his Twitter avatar in ten years being him in a baseball cap and sunglasses.
Kwak: Since the rest of her family is outwardly uncharitable, I’ll go with Joni’s daughter, Meg, who hides her selfish tendencies beneath a socially conscious façade. As we learned in Midsommar: The one who vapes can never be trusted.
Surrey: Sure, he didn’t actually kill anyone, but the pale Nazi child/future Bre*tbart columnist was by far the most punchable member of the ensemble.
Herman: No need to overthink this—when there’s a masturbating Nazi in the room, they win the “worst person” contest. Just kidding, it’s the good liberal who rats out her friend’s family’s immigration status at the first opportunity!
Gruttadaro: Maybe Walt Thrombey (Shannon), who happily raised an alt-right troll and who really loved threatening Marta with deportation, but a low-key candidate here is Meg Thrombey (Katherine Langford), who was superficially kind to Marta but in reality just as awful and self-serving as the rest of her family. And actually, I just forgot that Ransom casually commits murder in this movie; Ransom is the worst.
Lindbergh: Ransom is the only actual murderer, as far as we know. That’s tough to beat, but Meg betraying Marta was one of the worst things any Thrombey did. I’m reserving final judgment on Jacob because he could grow out of his alt-right phase. (He probably won’t.)
5. Ana de Armas. That’s it. That’s the question.
Gruttadaro: I wholeheartedly agree.
Yoo: Great question, the answer is yes.
Baumann: I don’t think I’d ever seen any of her movies before, but I thought she was fantastic.
Herman: She didn’t steal the Thrombey clan’s fortune because it was never actually theirs, but she did steal the movie!!!
Surrey: Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, don’t read this ...
… Ana de Armas, hello.
Lindbergh: It’s going to be strange to see her not throwing up and Craig not sounding like someone from CSI: KFC in a Bond movie next spring.
Kwak: She is not distractingly beautiful at all. [Immediately pukes.]
6. Finish the sentence: “Rian Johnson is … ”
Herman: … exactly the kind of filmmaker we need right now: someone who can reliably deliver crowd-pleasing blockbusters without ever condescending to the audience. He and Jordan Peele should start a club.
Yoo: … on a hot streak that I hope continues into the new Star Wars trilogy.
Baumann: … the man. I gotta go watch Brick again.
Surrey: … such a smart and innovative filmmaker that I kinda wish he wasn’t going to spend the next decade working on a Star Wars trilogy. They’re very lucky to have him.
Gruttadaro: … one of the 21st century’s foremost creators of original content. Even counting The Last Jedi, which turned Star Wars on its head (and beautifully disrupted a million fanboys’ fantasy worlds), Johnson has been behind some of the most fun, most distinct movies of the last 20 years, from his excellent debut, Brick, to Looper, to this. I will see any movie Rian Johnson makes.
Lindbergh: … too creatively restless and chameleonic to make three more Star Wars movies? I’m torn between wanting Johnson to have a whole franchise trilogy to himself and wanting him to check more boxes on his movie-genre bingo card. Maybe he can talk Kathleen Kennedy into letting him do both beneath the Star Wars umbrella.
Kwak: … the same age as my older sister, with whom I watched Knives Out, and who had to run to the bathroom right before the “dumbest car chase ever.” Sorry sis.
7. Choose a Knives Out wardrobe.
Kwak: I’m digging the Chris Evans ensemble here. Cool scarf, bro!
Surrey: I want to live inside Chris Evans’s immaculate knitwear.
Yoo: Ransom’s fall/winter 2019 look is pretty damn good. 10/10 would cop.
Gruttadaro: Chris Evans’s sweater and topcoat look is impossible to deny. I also liked Marta’s sneakers.
Baumann: Rather than choose a single character, I just want to say what a great movie this is for overcoats. Overcoats rule. I moved from Texas to Michigan last year and found myself in need of a new winter coat to replace the one I’d had since college. For the first time in my life I bought a Coat instead of a Heavy Jacket, and while I don’t look like Chris Evans IRL, whenever I wear my overcoat I feel like I look like Chris Evans.
Herman: Jamie Lee Curtis’s pantsuits are more my style, but Toni Collette’s prairie dress collection would net me about $3 million at any consignment shop in L.A.
Lindbergh: Give me Greatnana Wanetta’s whole look.
8. Should Daniel Craig devote the rest of his career to playing eccentric Southerners?
Kwak: Kevin Spacey’s lane is pretty empty now, so why not?
Gruttadaro: He seems to have a fun time doing it, and I definitely have a fun time watching him do it—therefore he should continue to do it.
Surrey: Let’s take it a step further: He should be doing next year’s James Bond movie with this Southern accent.
Yoo: I’m hoping and praying the new Bond movie features Daniel Craig and an eccentric Southern accent.
Lindbergh: No. Frank Underwood wants his accent back.
Herman: Wrong question. The right question is: Should Daniel Craig devote the rest of his career to launching a donut empire? (And the answer is yes—the signature dish will be donut holes with holes in them.)
Baumann: There is one thing, and one thing only, that the basic Republican grievance platform gets right: Liberal Hollywood, by and large, neither understands nor respects Middle America. We’re expected to know what it means that a character lives in Echo Park or Bushwick but everything from Jersey City to Alexandria is an extension of New York, and everything south of the Mason-Dixon line, north of Miami, and east of the Rockies is all the same amalgamated mess of yokels and hayseeds.
I saw Knives Out with my wife, who is both a Southerner and a linguist, and when Benoit Blanc appeared on screen she leaned over and whispered, “What … is this accent supposed to be?” Because it’s a bad accent. He’s not alone—for example, roughly 10,000 of my coworkers were somehow able to sit through more than 45 seconds of The Righteous Gemstones—but it’s a little weird that this Englishman seems to relish the equivalent of Dick Van Dyke’s derided pidgin cockney from Mary Poppins.
On the other hand, it’s supposed to be a cartoonish accent. The same with his Logan Lucky accent. And the joy he derives from playing such purposely outrageous characters—there’s literally a Foghorn Leghorn joke in Knives Out—carries a palpable and infectious sense of glee. He knows it’s silly, and isn’t afraid to push that silliness to the very border between winking at the audience and talking through the camera. To judge Benoit Blanc on his authenticity would be to miss the point. So I say have at it, Daniel Craig, as long as it’s in good fun, while I turn my scorn to Ewan McGregor in Big Fish, Eric Bana and Jason Isaacs in Black Hawk Down, and so on …
9. Where does Knives Out rank in the “Eat the Rich” trend of 2019?
Kwak: Well, other than Harlan, nobody dies, and I’m sure the rest of the Thrombeys will be just fine, so I’d call this more of a “Snack on the Rich” movie. Delectable, still.
Herman: Somewhere between Tom Wambsgans eating Logan Roy’s chicken and “Jessica, only child, Illinois, Chicago.”
Lindbergh: Below Parasite and Succession and above Us (based on the Us synopsis and reviews that I read because I was too scared to see it in theaters). It’s a crowded genre!
Surrey: Just below Parasite, which is my favorite film of the year, and Succession, which is my favorite show of the year. Pretty strong company, in my opinion!
Gruttadaro: Parasite is still no. 1 here, but holy shit, what an amazing double feature this would make.
Baumann: Eh, it’s all bread and circuses until we actually start eating the rich. Every moment we spend chuckling at the Thrombeys is a moment we spend not vivisecting Mark Cuban.