Spoilers for Knives Out follow — but if you haven’t seen it already, what the heck are ya doing?
Part of the many joys of Knives Out, Rian Johnson‘s deliciously old-fashioned-yet-modern whodunit, comes from a shockingly early revelation. Typically with a mystery like this, you don’t know who the killer is until the very end. But Johnson pulls the rug from under us around minute 20, showing us exactly how Ana de Armas killed Christopher Plummer. Or… did she? As the film’s narrative unfolds and Daniel Craig tries to find the donut hole’s center, Johnson twists and turns everything we know about the mystery genre past the breaking point. How did he do it? Well, we’ve got an exclusive making of clip where the director explains it all. And one more thing: It involves Columbo.
That’s right: Johnson took his cue from Columbo, the hero of the Peter Falk-starring detective series, an eccentric, shambling, bumbling sleuth in a wrinkled brown coat (sort of like Benoit Blanc’s gruff and grungy younger brother). But Columbo took its cue from Alfred Hitchcock, who, it must be said, was a pretty good mystery filmmaker. And what did both of these paragons of the genre do? They “relieved the burden of the audience” by telling the audience who the killer was within the first moments of the story.
Johnson believes that if you keep a killer’s identity hidden until the final moments, an audience won’t be as actively engaged, as they know from years of experience that the detective will invariably find all the clues and solve the crime themselves. How can you get the audience off the backs of their chairs and sitting forward, paying attention AF? By giving the big revelation in the first act of the film, Knives Out gets a new, more effective dramatic engine, one that keeps an audience engaged: Can Marta (de Armas) get out of this without getting caught? Do we want her to — and if so, why? And is there more to the twisted story than meets the eye? Johnson is an atypically frank and forthcoming filmmaker about his methods, and this clip proves just how smart and sensitive he is to the pleasures of making entertainment for audiences.
Check out the exclusive clip below, and check out how you can own Knives Out for yourself here. For more on the acclaimed, Oscar-nominated mystery, here’s Johnson on the film’s final shot. And: Does Knives Out mean a future of original, mid budget cinema? Goodness I hope so!
Knives Out arrives on Digital February 7 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital) February 25th.