One of 2019’s best reaps rewards in home video revisits
My favorite big-screen viewings are the ones that become a communal experience for the audience, ones where each viewer becomes locked into the same exciting emotional rhythm the film provides. Over the course of his career, Rian Johnson has deftly honed this particular skill. From Brick to The Last Jedi, Johnson burrows deep into the tropes of his chosen genres and mines them for as many subversive twists and turns as possible. While this unpredictability would sate other directors, Johnson consistently has gone a step further, never losing sight of creating well-drawn, empathy-driven characters to set on these wild narrative paths. Whether on the big screen or now on home video, Knives Out sees Johnson at his absolute best. He turns the whodunnit into a why-dunnit and back again, creating a fast-paced, gripping tale rich with hilarious characters and a hell of a lot of heart.
The film follows an investigation into the murder of acclaimed mystery author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) after his 85th birthday party — and in the eyes of gentleman sleuth Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), every member of Harlan’s family is a potential suspect in the man’s demise. Was it headstrong real estate magnate Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis)? Her womanizing, baby-boomer husband Richard (Don Johnson)? Maybe the blame’s on Harlan’s son and publisher, Walt (Michael Shannon), or Harlan’s influencer daughter-in-law Joni (Toni Collette). There’s also the missing Ransom (Chris Evans), whose conspicuous absence leads to its own share of family secrets. To get to the bottom of this, Blanc relies on Harlan’s aide, Marta (Ana De Armas); but Marta’s holding some deadly secrets of her own, ones that threaten to upend everything we know about the night of Harlan’s death.
One of Knives Out’s strengths is that it’s as surprising as ever, whether you’re a newly-initiated viewer or putting the Blu in for the umpteenth time. The reason for this longevity, surprisingly, is that while Johnson and his cast know that these reversals and reveals are part of the lifeblood of the murder-mystery, they must serve the overall story rather than the other way round. The twists of Knives Out play into a far larger tapestry, fueled by a ridiculously-stacked cast of memorable characters with compelling, unpredictable motivations. The result is that every twist means that much more to us as it does for the characters onscreen. Knives Out is an endlessly enjoyable roller coaster of empathy, delivered with sheer confidence in each line and cut both in front of and behind the camera.
Lionsgate presents Knives Out in 1080p 1.85:1 HD, with an English Dolby Atmos track, 2.0 English descriptive audio, and 5.1 French and Spanish dub tracks. English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are provided for the main feature.
Steve Yedlin’s rich, labored-over cinematography is well preserved here. Of particular note is the healthy amount of artificial grain that grants Knives Out a filmic look that transcends its Arri Alexa origins. The intricate details of the Thrombey mansion transfer well here, too; I’m definitely going to have a blast pausing and reading the various ridiculous titles in Harlan’s library. The surround audio track showcases the delightful strings of Nathan Johnson’s soundtrack as much as it does the film’s crackling dialogue. Overall, it’s a high-quality presentation of a stellar flick.
- 2 Audio Commentaries: The disc features Rian Johnson’s self-released solo commentary during the film’s theatrical run, as well as an ensemble commentary with Johnson, cinematographer Steve Yedlin, and Trooper Wagner himself, Noah Segan.
- Deleted Scenes: 2 brief excised subplots, one delving into Walt’s gambling debts and the mystery of his broken leg, the other revealing the unfortunate side effects of Joni’s Flam products. Both add to the characters’ already duplicitous motivations (and thankfully give Riki Lindholme more to do), but are easily removed strands of story from an already chock-full plot.
- Making a Murder: A feature-length documentary covering every facet of Knives Out’s production, from the excitement of pre-production, the fast-paced shooting schedule, to the film’s eventual premiere at Toronto, Fantastic Fest, and Los Angeles. I know it’s old hat to say that a film’s cast and crew definitely had fun during production, but come on, the Knives Out set looks like it was the best summer camp ever.
- Rian Johnson–Planning the Perfect Murder: An interview with the writer-director on conceptualizing the world of Knives Out and the intricacies of bringing the various threads of the story together in the script stage.
- Q&A: A 45-minute post-screening session featuring the film’s cast and crew.
- Marketing Gallery: Featuring three theatrical trailers, a Hitchcockian introduction to the film by Rian Johnson, and three viral ads from the world of the film: Thrombey Real Estate, Blood Like Wine Publishing, and Flam.
From its endlessly rewatchable main feature to its surprising king’s ransom of supplements, Knives Out is easily a staple of anyone’s Blu collection. Now to make room for the future Blu of Untitled Knives Out Sequel alongside it.
Knives Out is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital courtesy of Lionsgate.