Hey! Hallie here!
Every time a ‘Knives Out’ movie is released it becomes my personality for at least a month. These movies are extremely fun with characters who are easy to get attached to. But they’re also insanely well thought out and relevant to the influential conversations we’re currently having as a society. And on top of all that, they’re just solid mystery movies that consistently keep the audience guessing. I’ve seen some critics write off these movies as fluffy, but I disagree. There’s so much depth to the ‘Knives Out’ movies and they only get better with each viewing. So in honor of my obsession with Benoit Blanc and his mysteries, here are some of the best things about the ‘Knives Out’ movies so far. SPOILERS for ‘Knives Out’ and ‘Glass Onion’ ahead!
First off, the mysteries in these films are actual mysteries. What I mean by that is, they’re actually solvable. You as the audience are always given all of the information Benoit Blanc has. Does that mean you always figure it out? Not really. After all, Benoit Blanc is more observant than the average person and the movies do a good job of throwing you off with each twist to add some confusion. But the reason why the big reveals at the end of each ‘Knives Out’ film are so fun and so satisfying is because the clues were there all along. When Blanc puts things together you completely understand what he’s talking about, and at some points you’re even able to pick up on what he’s piecing together before he gets to the point. These movies have the goal of frustrating you with the clues you missed that were right under your nose, rather than delighting in a reveal you never could have guessed. Then there’s the mysteries themselves, which have a unique structure that make the ‘Knives Out’ series stand out. The structure involves an extremely simple mystery, but one that becomes a lot more intriguing when the audience gains an entirely new perspective at around the halfway mark of each film.
The mystery in ‘Knives Out’ revolves around the mysterious death of Harlan, a wealthy old man who had a lot of money that will be distributed upon his death. That’s certainly a premise we’ve seen before. The culprit even turns out to be the person heard having a fight with Harlan the night of his demise and who directly says “I could have killed him” when talking about said argument. But the entire movie is turned on its head when we get a supposed solution halfway through the movie with the “reveal” that Marta accidentally gave Harlan a lethal amount of medication and Harlan killed himself to help cover it up. At that point we have so many more questions about whether or not Marta is actually guilty, whether or not Benoit is a good detective, and whether or not Ransom has good intentions, that it becomes more complicated to solve the mystery. Similarly, ‘Glass Onion’ first appears complicated. We think we’re solving the upcoming murder of Miles Bron at the beginning of the movie, and literally any of his friends have the motivation to kill him. But halfway through the movie we learn there’s already been a murder, the murder of Helen’s sister Andi over her attempt to ruin Bron’s career. The issue is that Bron seems like the least possible suspect to everyone including Blanc because of how easily he could be blamed for the murder, which raises even more questions. But the solution is simple. Bron was the one who killed Andi because he clearly had the most reason to do so. He simply disregarded the fact that he could easily be blamed because he’s a genuinely stupid person. Both of these movies are master classes in giving the audience a simple mystery with all the clues to solve it, and still keeping them guessing until the final reveal. No series does it like ‘Knives Out’.
There are so many famous gentleman detectives. Sherlock is the most famous by far, and Poirot has recently been gaining on him in popularity. But I’d argue Benoit Blanc is the most likable detective of them all. First off, he isn’t superhuman like Sherlock Holmes. He isn’t going to notice the type of sand on the bottom of your shoe or the small scratch on your phone screen. He notices clues that anyone could potentially notice, he’s just more observant than the people around him. He also isn’t pompous about his abilities. He’s certainly confident in himself, but he doesn’t claim to be smarter or more capable than anyone else. In fact, he shows a firm respect for both Marta’s kind heart, and Helen’s strong will and snooping skills. Benoit also never comes across as untouchable. He’s a regular, relatable guy. One of the reasons you spend so much of ‘Knives Out’ wondering if he’s a good detective, is because he’s a bit of a goofball who likes singing Sondheim at full volume in the car and lands on donuts when he’s trying to find an analogy for the case. In ‘Glass Onion’ he’s invited onto an island with a bunch of rich people and is immediately both politely bewildered by his rich companions, and awkwardly uncomfortable around a group of people he doesn’t know. My favorite thing about Blanc though, is his kindness. In ‘Knives Out’ he’s the first to offer condolences to Harlan’s mother, correctly assuming everyone else brushed her off. He also attempts to soften the truth of Harlan’s death to Marta because he knows it will upset her. In ‘Glass Onion’ he’s careful to watch Helen because of the danger she’s in, and even worries about her alcohol intake on the island because she told him she didn’t drink. He’s just a genuinely good person who would be nice to know in real life.
‘Knives Out’ and ‘Glass Onion’ are both stories about a privileged group of people being outwitted and ultimately destroyed by a woman of color without the luxury of those privileges. There’s a reason for that. Both movies tackle the problem of racism and raise awareness to the ways we see it now, in modern day. In ‘Knives Out’ Marta faces a family of white people benefiting from generational wealth, with about half of them saying something racist to or about Marta at some point in the movie. Both Ransom and Richard claim Marta’s family is from a different country each time they talk about her, and both Richard and Walt are firmly against immigration. Richard even attempts to bait Marta into agreeing with him on immigration policies while simultaneously handing her his finished plate to deal with. Marta’s Harlan’s nurse, not the maid. And I won’t even go into the alt-right troll child. The racism in ‘Glass Onion’ is a bit more straightforward. Miles Bron, a white man, takes the ideas of Andi, a Black woman, claims them as his own and then murders her. Though here there’s also a message about the corrupt nature of the people who are privileged with money, who will step on literally anyone to get more money and fame. In both stories it’s satisfying to see the innocent party prevail, Marta because she’s finally able to turn the tables on the people who looked down on her, and Helen because she’s able to get revenge for her sister and strip away the monetary privileges of all of her sister’s former friends. These stories don’t shy away from the modern racism, classism, and even sexism (Thanks Duke) we’re seeing today, and that relevance makes them so much more intriguing.
I love so many things about these movies. I love the characters. I love the casts. I love how much fun every single actor and member of the crew look like they’re having on these movies. I love the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of the mysteries. I especially love the critique of society in every script. I love all of these things, but I also love how light and fun these movies are. The characters are goofy, the comedy is on point, and none of the deaths ever feel that serious. But that doesn’t make these movies fluffy or mindless entertainment. Movies can be both fun and mind-blowing. I feel like we need to have an appreciation for movies like this, that are well executed without having to have thoroughly depressing plots that are often used for award show bait. There’s so much complexity to be found in them and they’ll stay enjoyable far into the future.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!