Knives Out Analysis

Okay, cool. Let’s bounce back to dynamics, just to make sure everything is settled there.

I think you had…
Driver: Action
Limit: Optionlock
Outcome: Success
Judgement: ???

I’m guessing Linear is a shoe-in. (She hides the trellis piece, she magnetized the tap, she can’t see the bigger picture with all the stuff happening).

With Marta as a Be-er that would make it a Stop story and Marta would be bringing resistance to the narrative.

How does that feel to you?

To me, it seemed like she played into Ransom’s hand at every step. It seemed like she was messing things up for Benoit, but he reveals at the end he knew she was involved the second he met her.

This felt fairly light to me. Like a Caper. But I’ve been burned on my heavy and light intuition many a time.

I think it’s a Decision story, and Judgement Good.
And yes, with Marta in Be-er and the OS in Psychology it has to be Stop dynamic.

Interesting. I would’ve thought Action.

  • Ransom finds out about the will, forcing his decision to frame Marta for murder or negligence or whatever.

  • The Police rule the death a suicide, forcing the decision to hire Benoit.

  • Fran blackmails Ransom, which makes him decide to blackmail Marta.

  • Marta lies about Fran, leading Ransom to decide to drop the ruse and confess.

  • Ransom tries to kill Marta to save the fortune, but is unsuccessful and is arrested.

So those seem like decisions that drive actions to me, and I’m also not sure those are story drivers.
They decide it’s a suicide first, forcing the action to hire Benoit.
Marta decides to lie on the phone, forcing the action of Ransom admitting what he did.

The easy drivers to me are the first and last:

  • Harlan decides to change the will
  • Marta decides to keep the inheritance


  • Harlan decides not to call the police, which leads to him slitting his throat.

Also, those scenes of Marta just sitting and thinking… deliberating… seems like classic Decision to me.

She definitely deliberates. But are her deliberations driving the story? Or is she deliberating in response to the things that are happening?

Drivers are a bit of a blindspot for me and having so much of the plot dolled out in flashbacks makes it harder. :smile:

It seemed to me when reading it that all the reveals with Ransom were previously hidden drivers though.

The emphasis seemed on Actions to me. We don’t see the police deliberate, for example. We don’t see Marta deliberate about the phone call and we don’t see Harlan deliberate about the will, really.

It’s the fight with Ransom when he finds out about the will that starts everything. Ransom has that drive where he decides to do what’s necessary to keep the money.

Harlan decides to protect Martha by not calling the police after he finds out he has ten minutes to live.

I could be argued out of that though. :smile:

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I think the theme of truth and lies is absolutely central to the story. Yes, Marta has a heart of gold. But is there a point when not being able to lie actually hurts you? When telling the truth is immoral? When it risks breaking up your family? When you have to lie to trick a murderer into confessing?

Change doesn’t necessarily involve adopting the IC’s “position” as much as it is changing your approach in response to their influence.

Through their actions and their perspective, Harlan and Ransom push Marta to change her approach. Being able to lie, deciding to accept the inheritance – these symbolize a major paradigm shift for her. She still has a heart of gold – maybe, if Benoit is right – but she also has “her house, her rules.”

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Right. She becomes a Thrombey, in the sense that she turns their game against them. Her being able to lie is what defeats the antagonist. That’s what I took away from it, anyway.

What are your thoughts on Driver @lakis?

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Me too, so I can be convinced. But I would vote for Action.

I’m not sure this is a driver. But if it is, how do you distinguish between a decision and an action? This could just as easily be “Harlan changes the will” – Action.

Is this a driver? Is it even OS?

The final driver is when she lies to Ransom, gets him to confess and he tries to kill her. That is the moment that resolves the mystery (OS). FWIW I think Benoit is pretty clearly the Protagonist (with a possible handoff to Marta after the midpoint). He’s trying to solve the crime – literally the one in Pursuit of the truth.

What makes you say this is a decision rather than an action?

I think Decision has to present some kind of dilemma, some kind of choice. Lying on the phone is not something that is built up to as a major decision, and it’s not like we’re presented with choices (do X or Y).

But I think Action/Decision is hard. It’s usually the last thing I look at.

You should watch it! The performances are great.

I definitely will! Just haven’t had time to get out to the movies in a while. Daniel Craig’s southern gentleman accent in the trailer was enough to sell me. :smile:

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I still maintain that it’s Decision for the reasons I already laid out.

But just looking at the storyform, if we changed it to Action, that would make Marta’s Benchmark Memory (instead of Impulsive Responses… aka getting better at holding in her puke.

It would also make the story about creating the new family dynamic benchmark conceptualizing (instead of being – being the awful Thrombeys they are more and more exposed for being)

etc… through the other throughlines.
It just doesn’t match up with this movie.

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I think I might have lost you – what Concerns have you settled on? (I still think it’s OS Conceptualizing).

I hope I’m not rocking the boat too much here. I just really want to nail down the dynamics because unlike the other story points they’re binary and can be argued in isolation. They also set the context/framing for the whole story.

Yes, if Marta and Harlan and the rest were real people these would all be big decisions. But is Rian Johnson presenting these as big decisions to us or just showing them as big actions? I think the latter.

The only really big decision I can remember off hand is Marta deciding to save Fran and come clean to Benoit. She clearly deliberated on that. But she is forced to decide because Ransom has set her up and put her in that position.

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Alas this also means they can be argued ad infinitum. :slight_smile: Though it seems like @JohnDusenberry may have provisionally come around on Marta as a Be-er?

There is also the big dilemma at the beginning when Harlan must quickly convince Marta to adopt his plan. However, that’s also driven by Action – Marta discovers that she’s poisoned Harlan (Action) and the two of them must decide what to do.

The fact that it’s presented in that order is part of what makes me think it’s Action.

Even if you were to argue that it was Ransom’s decision that led to that point, Marta and Harlan don’t know that. The way it’s presented is Action - Decision.

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Seems like a murder mystery would be driven by a murder. Where does the murder seem to fit?

I think one of the two choices is going to be correct if it’s a complete story. Sometimes it’s hard to pin down, but usually the strongest argument prevails. At least, that’s the hope. :slight_smile:

Agree about the poisoning and the plan.

Cut out of the will -> Decides to take matters into his own hands.

Harlan poisoned -> Decides to cover up the mistake to save Marta and her family.

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Technically there isn’t one. :smile:

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I have fully come around on her as a Be-er, after realizing she’s a Steadfast MC whose Source of Drive is following her kind heart.

The Overall Story, as I see it, isn’t about the murder itself. I think what Rian is showing us is an overall story about the much needed transformation of a toxic family.

We’re let in on so much about Harlan’s death through the eyes of the MC, that it’s not really your traditional “Murder Mystery.” Rian has flipped the genre on its head, and I think that’s why it feels so different, not because it’s a “Comedic-Mystery,” but because it’s a transformative family movie.

This is what I think Rian intended for the OS – the dilemmas of The Thrombey Family Dynamic

Throughline: PSYCHOLOGY - manipulating family members, being savage, being oppressive, being offensive, being tricky with a particular group, being manipulated by someone, being cutthroat, etc. etc.
Concern: BECOMING - creating a new family dynamic, being changed by someone, changing a particular group, becoming part of a family, having an awakening, etc.
Issue: RESPONSIBILITY - being held accountable, assuming propriety, having jurisdiction, being culpable, etc.
Problem: CONTROL - Being controlled by someone, being limited, being limited, losing control of something, etc.
Solution: UNCONTROLLED - Letting someone loose (the family), letting children go, being reckless, etc.
Focus: CONSCIENCE - censoring one’s actions, having a guilty conscience, acting self-righteously, restraining oneself
Direction: TEMPTATION - taking the easy way out, tempting an honest person, being tempted to cheat, baiting someone, being tempted to criticize others, etc.
Catalyst: OBLIGATION satisfying an obligation to do something, evading obligation to be something, being legally obligated, etc.
Inhibitor: DREAM having unrealistic expectations, living in make believe, wishful thinking, etc.
Benchmark: BEING being part of the family, being part of a particular group, pretending to care, being phony, posing as something, behaving insincerely, bluffing, shamming

And this is what I think for Marta - The immigrant nurse with a heart of gold, whose personal dilemmas appear because:

Throughline: MIND being something special, loving someone, being an idealogue (and yes, even fearing vomiting)…
Concern: SUBCONSCIOUS carrying the torch for someone/something, giving in to love, etc.
Issue: DENIAL refusing to end something (the ruse), foreswearing something, refusing to back down, etc.
Source of Drive: HELP helping, assisting, being an angel, giving advice, etc.
Demotivator: HINDER impeding someone, getting in someone’s way, throwing someone off the track, etc.
Focus: CONSCIENCE doing the right thing, listening to the angel on one’s shoulder, restraining oneself, acting righteously, having a guilty conscience, etc.
Direction: TEMPTATION indulging, being lured into something, being tempted, etc.
Unique Ability: DENIAL refusing to end something (the ruse), foreswearing something, refusing to back down, etc.
Critical Flaw: RESPONSIBILITY accepting culpability, taking responsibility, accepting control of something, assuming propriety, etc.
Benchmark: PRECONSCIOUS gagging at the thought of lies