Welcome to the 2019 CIRCUIT CONSIDERATIONS series. Highlighting the very best in film, acting, and technical achievements for the past 12 months that awards voters may need help remembering. Each day a different writer will make their plea for a specific film in a respective category. If you miss one, click the tag “Circuit Considerations 2019,” and if you have some suggestions, include them in the comments below!
During film production, hundreds of thousands of hours of film are shot. It is the editor’s job to compile this film into a cohesive storyline. They use the writer’s script as a guide and the director’s vision as an outline to put together a final cut. Audiences only see what the editor wants. Their choices are largely responsible for a film’s tempo, an actor’s final performance and often the audiences’ reaction.
This year, Rian Johnson wrote and directed a whodunit comedy. The film “Knives Out” follows a detective (Daniel Craig) hired to investigate the death of a wealthy family’s patriarch (Christopher Plummer). Johnson fleshes out a wonderfully eccentric group of people at the center of a murder mystery. But the film is elevated by editor Bob Ducsay’s sharp compilation of footage.
For the past thirty years, Ducsay has made a name for himself editing action films. He was first hired by Johnson to edit the 2012 film “Looper.” Their relationship continued with “Star Wars: Episode VIII- The Last Jedi” (2017). “Knives Out” marks their third collaboration, and once again shows that these two are magic together. “Knives Out” is an extremely successful piece of filmmaking in large part due to Ducsay’s talents. The Academy should consider nominating him for film editing.
When Ducsay cuts to a certain character at a specific moment, he is guiding the audience in a specific direction. When he speeds up or slows down his cuts, Ducsay is coaxing the audiences’ heart rates to follow suit. A great editor makes his planning look effortless. And with such an intricate plot, editing “Knives Out” would have taken tremendous planning.
With any mystery, storytellers wish to keep the audience in suspense for as long as possible. If audiences become aware of the twist or the ending before they should, the entire story becomes pointless. Johnson has laid out a clever arch that keeps the audience guessing. And Ducsay compiles the shots in a way that drops subtle clues, but never gives too much away. With “Knives Out,” Ducsay has given us a taste of Hitchcockian storytelling that only gets better on second viewing.