When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey dies just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc arrives at his estate to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Thrombey’s untimely demise.
Plot: A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.
Director: Rian Johnson
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Runtime: 131 min
Rotten Tomatoes Consensus: Knives Out sharpens old murder-mystery tropes with a keenly assembled suspense outing that makes brilliant use of writer-director Rian Johnson’s stellar ensemble.
“A whodunnit that flips itself upside down and inside out.”
This movie was shot with Arri Alexa cameras at 5.1 & 3.1k and finished at a 2k digital intermediate, that means you’ll get an upscaled presentation on this disc (though you can’t tell). On top of that, as per the norm with UHD releases, it was also given a HDR color grade for your viewing pleasure in both Dolby Vision & HDR10+. (There is some grain, so grain-haters beware.)
Something to note immediately is the process that this film was made by. This was the first film Rian Johnson shot digitally, not on his favorite format, film. Why did he do this? His cinematographer Steve Yedlin convinced him that he could make digital look like actual film because he would have control over every aspect of the final footage. (News flash, he’s right. If you have any interest in this I suggest checking out his site, he breaks this down piece by piece. I will never be a cinematographer and I enjoyed learning more about the process immensely.)
What’s strange about this 2020 UHD release is it looks like an old film that was upgraded to UHD. It truly has the appearance of being shot on film, it’s rather amazing that it wasn’t. In hindsight, having this technology available will only give more directors in today’s cinema world to create the exact environment that they envision. It’s quite exciting when you think about it.
Keeping to the standard, this UHD release showcases fine detail, depth and dimension in nearly every scene. Character close-ups display a lot of detail including pores, beard stubble, makeup, blemishes — the works. It can be seen further in the Thrombey mansion’s elaborate set pieces and in the characters wardrobe — the finest pieces of material are distinguishable, rich, defined and rather striking. Through and through it’s a sharp disc that has all the benefits of what UHD can bring to the table except for one factor, HDR use.
HDR is in play, just not in the same way you may be accustomed to. In this case, the lighter load was done with exact intention from the director and cinematographer. Usually, HDR will bring that POP! and brightness to the various colors and lighting, but in this case everything feels classic and timeless, harking back to what I said about a remaster of an older film. Knives Out is so consistently perfect in the sense that it never gets too bright nor too dark. The natural lighting of the somber mansion sits flawlessly against the backdrop of a rich and heavily-decorated set. It’s lush, it’s dense and heavy, while also being close-knit, crowded and congested — all in the best possible way.
After reading and listening to what Yeldin describes in his cinematography process, I have no right to even comment on the matter because it’s way out of my league.
In conclusion —
Let’s get one thing straight, this is a great movie through and through — it’s pure entertainment that’s not only smart and witty, but funny and perfectly paced. Did you see the acting cast on this film? Every character fills their role perfectly and adds to the substance of the film. Knives Out is the movie that was made for all movie lovers, it’s not only a perfect fit, but a film you can re-watch and learn something new every time.
The bonus features on this disc include commentary by the director, deleted scenes, an eight part documentary, director and cast Q&A, marketing gallery, viral ads and more. If you are looking to dive deeper into this film, you won’t be disappointed.
Taking everything I’ve said into account, Knives Out gets my recommendation for an automatic day-one purchase. Do yourself a favor, grab a copy at your local retailer on either 4K or Blu-ray today. You won’t be disappointed. It’s one of the best films of 2019, don’t sleep on it. While the discussion around digital, film, HDR and 4K can get out of hand, or just straight up nerdy — I love it.
Did you catch Knives Out in theater? Were you a fan of this movie? Will you be picking it up to own? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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