In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for Knives Out, we will discuss the meaning behind the movie’s title.
- 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
Why is the movie called Knives Out?
Knives Out is a cut down version of an old idiom. The phrase is usually about one group having their knives out for another group or individual. For example, “After Art Model moved the Browns to Baltimore and founded the Ravens football team, the city of Cleveland had its knives out for Model.” The origin probably has some reference to the assassination of Julius Caesar. In that infamous event, Caesar arrived for the usual leadership meeting at the Senate House of Pompey. During the discussion of one petition, a senator attempted to knife Caesar. The leader fought back, but other senators, also with knives, swarmed. They got Caesar to the ground and inflicted 23 wounds, and thus ended the Roman Republic. What came after the ascent of Marc Antony and the beginning of the Roman Empire.
So when the knives are out for someone, it tends to imply a souring that’s usually the beginning of the end of some relationship or loss of status or position. If a filmmaker goes over budget by $100 million, then the studio might have its knives out, meaning it’s only a matter of time before the filmmaker is let go from the project. Or you might say that, for decades, fiscally conservative politicians have had their knives out for Social Security.
In terms of Rian Johnson’s movie, the use of Knives Out has two primary applications. First, there’s the basic implication of violence. And the additional level of political intrigue for anyone who is aware of the Caesar reference.
The second is a bit deeper. The initial dynamic between the Thrombeys and Marta is that they see her as this sweet girl who doesn’t have much. They see themselves as her benevolent employers. Even after Harlan passes, multiple family members make sure to tell Marta they’ll take care of her, that they even view her as family. But after the will reading, when it’s revealed Harlan left everything to Marta, the family turns on her. All their care and humanity goes out the window. They’re angry. They’re mean. They’re manipulative, threatening, awful. In other words, the knives come out. Which begs the question of if they ever meant any of their previous, kind remarks.
There’s larger commentary here, as the Thrombeys represent a kind of established, wealthy White America, while Marta is from an immigrant family and embodies a new wave of the melting pot ideal that has been a huge US political topic in the first decades of the 21st century. Dialogue in the film even makes reference to some of the contentious immigration debates of the time.
What are your thoughts?
Is there more information about the title that you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for Knives Out? Leave a comment below and we’ll consider adding your thoughts to the guide.