In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Knives Out, we talk about themes that help us understand the film.
- Benoit Blanc – Daniel Craig
- Detective Lieutenant Elliot – LaKeith Stanfield
- Marta Cabrera – Ana de Armas
- Harlan Thrombey – Christopher Plummer
- Linda Drysdale – Jamie Lee Curtis
- Richard Drysdale – Don Johnson
- Hugh Ransom Drysdale – Chris Evans
- Walt Thrombey – Michael Shannon
- Donna Thrombey – Riki Lindhome
- Jacob Thrombey – Jaeden Martell
- Joni Thrombey – Toni Collette
- Meg Thrombey – Katherine Langford
- Trooper Wagner – Noah Segan
- Fran – Edi Patterson
- Alan Stevens – Frank Oz
- Written by – Rian Johnson
- Directed by – Rian Johnson
The themes and meaning of Knives Out
Immigration in 21st century America
Knives Out is primarily a parable about 21st century America and the political tension around immigration. The Thrombeys transcend political alignment, as they’re made up of both left wing and right wing ideologies. So it’s not as simple as “The view of Democrats vs the view of the Republicans.” Rather, it’s about power dynamics.
The Thrombeys are rich White people who feel entitled based on the idea of inherited power. “This belonged to my ancestor, so it should belong to me. It’s as simple as that.” It echoes the phrase “They’re taking our jobs” that was such a galvanizing cry during the Trump era. An era that Knives Out is very much a byproduct of. Harlan’s writing his descendants out of the will is a declaration: who you are entitles you to nothing. It’s a matter of character. What you are. And the Thrombeys aren’t much. They take what they have for granted and are overly reliant on Harlan. While Marta is compassionate, dedicated, and skilled. It’s no wonder she ended up with “the house” and the Thombeys are out on the street.
Entitlement and growth through loss
When it first comes out that Harlan cut Ransom from the will, the rest of the Thrombey family says it’s for the best. Ransom’s own parents, Linda and Richard, even say that they think it’s what Ransom needs. That maybe he’ll finally grow up. The irony being that the rest of the Thrombeys are blind to the fact they’re as bad as Ransom. When they realize they’re all also out of the will, they don’t accept it as a lesson in tough love and a chance to grow up. They don’t think, “Maybe this is what’s best for me.” They rage and wail and flounder in narcissism.
Since Knives Out is a commentary on America circa 2016, specifically around the conversation of immigration, it only makes sense to apply the story of the Thrombeys to the US establishment most fearful of losing power to immigrants. Maybe those in power have become too comfortable with it. Their sense of entitlement has meant they take more than they contribute. Maybe a loss of status is exactly what they need in order to once again add value to society as a whole rather than simply benefitting from the work of others.
What are your thoughts?
Are there more themes you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Knives Out? Leave your comments below and we’ll consider updating the guide.