Distressing, Suspenseful Drama Flips The Script On The Home Invasion Experience


  • The Knife is a visceral viewing experience, keeping us on edge with intense suspense and a poignant conclusion.
  • Stellar cast performances bring the story to life, with Asomugha, King, and Leo delivering top-notch acting.
  • The film’s staging creates a sense of claustrophobia, emphasizing the tension and consequences of protecting loved ones.

A Black family has recently moved into a new home in a not-so-safe neighborhood, but a routine evening is disrupted by an intruder. Chris (Nnamdi Asomugha, who directed and co-wrote the script with Mark Duplass) goes down to the kitchen to find the source of the noise. In his hand is a knife. Though he confronts the stranger, what exactly transpired between them is not shown onscreen. And so The Knife begins on an anxious, tense note that it delicately continues to escalate until the final moment, leaving us on edge throughout a swift, stress-inducing 82 minutes.

Chris calls 911, and a stern detective (Melissa Leo) begins her long interrogation of him, his wife Alex (Aja Naomi King), and his two young daughters (Aiden Price and Amari Price). As the night continues, The Knife unfolds as a searing portrait of a split-second decision and the harrowing consequences it can have. Asomugha intricately and effectively crafts a story that compellingly dives into what it’s like to be Black in America, the complications that arise when trying to protect one’s family, and the manipulation and bias of the police.

The Knife Is A Visceral Viewing Experience

I was on the edge of my seat the whole time

The Knife is intense, to say the very least. I was at the edge of my seat for nearly the film’s entire runtime. And just when I thought I could breathe a sigh of relief, the story took a hard right and left me stunned by its poignant and heartbreaking conclusion. Despite the high-pressure situation the characters find themselves in, the film still carries a lot of hope. Perhaps it’s misguided hope, especially in a system that isn’t particularly fair, but it’s there — the hope that things might turn out differently than expected.

It’s masterful in developing a gnawing suspense that permeates the film, and never falters in engaging us from start to finish.

The Knife subverts expectations, even while leaning into certain tropes. At the same time, there’s a sense of heightened realism that is laced into the story. It asks how far one is willing to go to protect one’s family from harm, while also showcasing the quick assumptions of the police. Leo’s detective infuses a false gentleness into her tone; you’ll want to believe she wants to get to the bottom of things, but her eyes and demeanor say differently. She’s smart and sharp, conveying how far she, too, is willing to go to do her job, including cutting corners and lying.

All this makes for a nail-biting viewing experience. Asomugha excels at creating and building tension; the atmosphere is teeming with it, and it spills over into every scene and moment. It’s in the terrified looks the characters give each other, the way their bodies fold inward in distrust and stress, and in the upsetting interrogations the family is forced to undergo. I was hooked to the screen, unable to look away. If I blinked, would something terrible happen to the family? Asomugha knows how to keep us on edge, and it makes for an emotional viewing experience I struggled to shake.

The Knife Has Stellar Cast Performances

The film’s staging and final moments bring everything together

Of course, The Knife’s cast is fantastic. This movie wouldn’t really work if the actors didn’t bring their A-game. Asomugha pulls triple duty, but he brings his all to directing, writing, and acting, making it look effortless. As Chris, he’s simply heartbreaking. His performance is laced with dread and panic. He holds his body still, even as he resists the urge to flee, nervous energy abundant. King plays Alex with determination, a balance of emotional strength, restraint, and nerves. Alex is doing the best she can under terrifying circumstances, and King successfully brings every feeling she has to the forefront.

The film’s action doesn’t stray beyond Chris’ front home and yet the way each room is utilized is powerful.

Leo’s detective is collected, observant, and somewhat stern as she questions, prods, and lies her way through to get to what she believes is the truth. Because we’re on the side of the family, Leo’s character can grate on the nerves, but the actress doesn’t overdo it. The Good Place’s Manny Jacinto doesn’t get much to do except look on with suspicion and hesitation, but though his character, Officer Padilla, says very little, Jacinto’s face is expressive and says a lot more than dialogue ever could.

Ultimately, though, it’s The Knife’s staging that is excellent. The film’s action doesn’t stray beyond Chris’ front home and yet the way each room is utilized is powerful. At several points, the tension in the air was so thick that it also created a sense of claustrophobia. The living room felt like a cage as Leo’s character swooped in to question Chris and Alex’s young daughter; the front yard became itself a prison the family couldn’t escape.

And while the flashbacks to some of the earlier events of the film proved unnecessary, The Knife is excellent in its dissection of being Black in America, the choices we make to protect loved ones, and the consequences of those choices. It’s masterful in developing a gnawing suspense that permeates the film, and never falters in engaging us from start to finish.

The Knife premiered at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival.

After a mysterious intruder enters their home, a young family is interrogated by a relentless detective and must reckon with the fallout of an investigation that threatens their tight façade.


  • Nnamdi Asomugha and Mark Duplass’ script is suspenseful and gripping
  • The Knife’s cast is top-notch, delivering excellent performances and elevating the harrowing drama
  • The film offers a different take on the home invasion experience
  • While the film doesn’t say anything new, its delivery is powerful

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