Tribeca 2024 Review: THE KNIFE, High-Tension Debut Drama Tackles the Terrors of Reality

Contributing Writer
Tribeca 2024 Review: THE KNIFE, High-Tension Debut Drama Tackles the Terrors of Reality

Co-written by Nnamdi Asomugha and Mark Duplass, and directed by the former, The Knife is surely a film that will be talked about for the time to come, as it actively invites the audience to be a part of a complex discussion.

The opening voiceover raises the topic of choices that inevitably lead to consequences, seemingly setting up the main theme. In actuality, there is a variety of those here, all far from being simplistic, and all requiring the said choices, both from the authors and the viewers.

Asomugha himself stars here as Chris, a construction worker and family man, whose quiet life is about to get rudely upended. At the start of the film, we become privy to the typical domestic scenes of Chris and Alex (Aja Naomi King) and their three daughters, the youngest of whom is still a baby.

They seem quietly happy, as suggested by an interlude in the couple’s bed where they are kind of inclined to have sex but are just too exhausted to do anything about it. Later, Chris is woken up in the middle of the night by a strange sound downstairs, goes to investigate and walks in on a strange woman hanging out in the kitchen. Cut to few minutes later when Alex and the girls are also awakened and rush downstairs to see the stranger lying unconscious on the floor and Chris not being fully able to explain what happened.

Soon, the house is swarmed by the police, and detective Carlson (Melissa Leo) arrives, quickly separating Chris, Alex and the two older girls in order to question them. Bearing Leo’s patented piercing stare, the detective claims she only wishes to know the truth.

From this moment on, the real invasion movie begins, as the family’s sense of safety and the concept of a home as a sanctuary disintegrates before our eyes. A very telling detail is that while Chris seems to be more or less in shock, Alex is quick to assess the situation and its possible ramifications. What’s even more telling is that their daughters, Kendra and Ryley, also almost immediately suspect that their dad might be in trouble.

As is easy to conclude, this is a compact and intimate setting that works as a high-stakes drama with poignant social commentary, but also as a claustrophobic thriller. The tension rolls off screen so at times you can actually physically feel it.

The uncomfortable closeups of rigid faces and clasped hands help to trap the audience with this family and their experience. The familiar household details are suddenly shown in an ominous light, as they all could now be weaponized against the heroes.

A lot relies on the actors obviously, and Aja Naomi King is especially great here, emanating palpable raw anxiety in her scenes. There is also a classic -- still very effective -- formula employed by the authors, in which the audience knows something the characters don't (but not exactly what happened in those few crucial moments).

Despite all the themes it concerns, The Knife never gets dogmatic, though. The film doesn’t give out that many answers but does ask a lot of questions, not dissimilar to Leo’s character.

Detective Carlson is adamant she is not interested in what the family think they saw or what they believe they remember; she just wants the truth. You know, that thing that arguably doesn’t really exists and which everyone has their own version of.

Within the film, this constant insistence becomes ironic and at the same time menacing. On the outside, it invites us for an even more complex discussion on the consequences of the choices conditioned to be impossible from the start. 

The film enjoys its world premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival..

Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.
Aiden PriceAja Naomi KingAmari PriceManny JacintoMark DuplassNnamdi AsomughaTribeca 2024Tribeca Festival

Around the Internet