What Is Knives Out Even About?

A campy modern murder mystery whodunit about a dysfunctional family might be your perfect Thanksgiving movie.

Lionsgate/Knives Out

What happens when a wealthy novelist invites his extended family to celebrate his 85th birthday at his mansion, only to turn up dead? Well, you’d have to watch Knives Out—the Rian Johnson-directed whodunit that tackles that very premise—to find out.

If you really don’t want to have the plot ruined for you, and would rather go into this murder mystery with fresh eyes, you could heed the warning of the film’s director, who wants you to steer clear of the trailer and see the film with completely fresh eyes when it comes out on November 27. And in some ways, it really could be the perfect Thanksgiving movie. If you’re already in the spirit of thinking about why your family is so dysfunctional, all you have to do is watch Knives Out and take solace in the fact that by comparison your family is probably not that bad.

Johnson insists that the trailer doesn’t spoil anything but does show “plenty of new moments that are best experienced for the first time in the movie.” The director is already well known with the fanboys thanks to his work at the helm of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and his neo-noir mysteries Brick and Looper (both starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt) so you can trust him when it comes to the anti-spoiling sentiment presented in his tweets promoting Knives Out.

The film has drummed up intrigue (and critical acclaim, after its Toronto International Film Festival world premiere on September 7) and boasts a truly stacked cast—Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Katherine Langford, Jaeden Martell, and Christopher Plummer—but people are still wondering, what is it about, exactly?

In Knives Out, Plummer plays Harlan Thrombrey, an acclaimed author known best for his crime novels. When his family, whom he has invited into his home to celebrate his birthday, finds him dead, a detective named Benoit Blanc (played by Daniel Craig with an unplaceable, but possibly Southern, accent) enters the fold to solve the mystery. Of course, some of the Thrombreys (like Linda Drysdale-Thrombrey, played by Jamie Lee Curtis) insist that the patriarch ended his own life, but the detective suspects foul play.

Joined by Detective Elliot (Lakeith Stanfield), Benoit Blanc makes it his mission to wrap things up in the Thrombrey household before the birthday party is over, while the dysfunction and feuds perpetuated by family bad boy Ransom Drysdale-Thrombrey (Chris Evans), cynic Joni Thrombrey (Toni Collette), and drunkard Walt Thrombrey (Michael Shannon) unravel the family unit. The other grandkids—Meg Thrombrey (Katherine Langford) and Jacob Thrombrey (Jaeden Martell) get in on the action, too.

Based on the two official trailers that have been released, it appears that Knives Out is really just a mix of Clue (who killed Mr. Thrombrey in what room and with what weapon?) meets classic Agatha Christie (Benoit Blanc could be the 2019 Hercule Poirot, couldn’t he?) meets The Westing Game (a late-’70s young adult novel about a group of apartment tenants solving a puzzle for the $200 million fortune of a man named Sam Westing). Its stellar cast and rich, over-the-top noirish aesthetic is also reminiscent of last fall’s big-budget mystery-thriller, Bad Times at the El Royale, although Knives Out may be more fun and possibly campier, which is all you could really ask for when it comes to a modern murder mystery whodunit about the death of a very rich man.

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