KNOCK AT THE CABIN: Full Review
Knock At The Cabin may very well be the most reserved and straightforward film that we've received from M. Night. Having never read the original source material, I was expect a classic twist as we've seen him done before- only to find out that where this one is heading is in fact the intended destination. A decision that I believe solidified this one as an enjoyable ride throughout, it's not my favorite in his filmography- but there's so much in here to chew off on in the topics that it discusses that I can't help look back positively in retrospective.
"While vacationing at a remote cabin in the woods, a young girl (Kristen Cui) and her parents (Jonathan Groff & Ben Aldridge) are taken hostage by four armed strangers who demand they make an unthinkable choice to avert the apocalypse. Confused, scared and with limited access to the outside world, the family must decide what they believe before all is lost."
On a philosophical basis, the concept presented feels like a familiar situation that we all know. Much like the 'Trolley Problem', the ethical decision of diverting a trolley to save five people by sacrificing one. Our family is placed in the middle of a very real version of the trolley problem, to sacrifice one of their own- someone they love ever so closely, to save humanity. Or to not trust these strangers intentions, and risk watching everything around them possibly burn down. The philosophical question weighs dearly on the couple, as they must decide whether what this group of strangers- led by Dave Bautista, are telling the truth or not. It's something that weighs on the viewer as well, I constantly found myself battling between- is what they're saying legit, and okay we have to sacrifice someone it's for the greater good of the masses. Something that was a lot of fun to go back and forth on throughout the watch.
The decision to give backstory on our couple in bits helps as well, it gives chunks of moments to understand the logic behind the way that Andrew and Eric interact with their captors and each other. As we learn a bit, the spot where we fall on the trolley problem alters. As we learn of in even greater details the circumstances that they've had to go through as a gay couple, and to see the way that, that, as well as Eric's profession as a human rights lawyer have affected his outlook on humanity- was a brilliant way of adding even more layers to the story. It's truly a wonderful philosophical journey to go through. We go between deciding what should be the right decision for the family to make and if we truly believe these strangers even with the evidence they continue to bring forward.
The acting is what really brings this entire thing together. Everyone in the strange group comes off strong, as does our couple. Yet there's three actors that truly have resonated with me from the moment they popped up on the screen till after I left the theatre. Nikki Amuka-Bird as this kind hearted nurse who is conflicted about if what they're doing to the family is genuinely right, and knowing deep down in her heart that this mission is the most important thing that she's ever done. She definitely holds the audiences attention when on the camera. This might be my favorite Jonathan Groff role as well, he plays the more relaxed one in the couple, and he's semi willing to hear the strangers out- this plays well as he can interact in so many different ways with his castmates. Emotionally he delivers a sound performance. Though this is Dave Bautista's coming out film truly, as the imposing yet kind hearted leader of this stranger group- Bautista takes the Leonard character to the most interesting depths. He's soft spoken, he's gentle, but he also believed firmly in what he's telling our family about what they need to do- it comes off the perfect balance of someone genuinely caring and understanding, and a masterful play of a skilled cult leader. Something that will leave audiences going back and forth on if to trust this kind giant. Bautista, takes the role runs with it and never lets anyone else steal the spotlight from him as he thrives as this character.
Overall, a sound film for M. Night Shamalyan and I am glad that he delivered a straight forward strong story. It won't be as memorable as some of my favorites in his filmography, but for someone that's taken so many home run swings and missed- it felt nice to see him hit a strong and safe hit and land himself perfectly on the second base.