The Last Inch of the Knife

Directed by

Steven Spielberg

Produced by

Bryan Burk
J.J. Abrams
Steven Spielberg

Written by

Steven Spielberg


Emma Watson
Ciaran Hinds
Freddie Highmore
Ewan McGregor
Elle Fanning
Liam Cunningham
Sarah Bolger
David Tennant
William Moseley
Brian Blessed
James McAvoy

Music by

John Williams

Cinematography by

Larry Fong

Edited by

Maryann Brandon


Bad Robot Pictures
Amblin Entertainment

Distributed by

Paramount Pictures

Release date(s)

20th November 2017

Running time

127 minutes


United States
United Kingdom


The Last Inch of the Knife is a 2017 psychological drama thriller written, co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Bryan Burk and J.J. Abrams. It stars Emma Watson as Katherine Beauregard, a young woman who is plunged into the brutal side of life after her parents are arrested for being associated with the IRA. It stars a supporting cast of Ciaran Hinds, Freddie Highmore, Ewan McGregor, Elle Fanning, Liam Cunningham, Sarah Bolger, David Tennant, William Moseley, Brian Blessed and James McAvoy. It was largely shot in Cardiff, but several scenes were filmed at length in Dublin, Ireland. Emma Watson expressed interest in being involved in a film with Steven Spielberg as the director after finishing her project with Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

The film was brought into production in November 2016, and it finished in August 2017. The film was released on 20th November 2017, and was a box-office success, grossing $370 million on a budget of $57 million. It received near-universal critical acclaim, with substantial praise for its aesthetics, immersive camerawork, story, Spielberg's direction, score and the performances of Watson, Hinds, Bolger and Fanning. The film received a number of awards and nominations, mainly for Watson's performance, Spielberg's direction and John Williams' musical score.

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Katherine Beauregard gets off a bus and confronts Michael Worthington. When he sees her, she chases him through Heath Park into the woods, where she corners him. He tries to kill her and, in the ensuing struggle, she stabs him in the stomach in self defence. Moments after killing him, she is attacked by two thugs from a gang, but she manages to defend herself, injuring one of them, before making a run for it. As she is fleeing from the woods, a police car catches up with her and she is arrested by DCS Richard Shepley, and taken to the local police station, where she is interrogated by Officer Samuel Lomax. Throughout the interrogation, it is established that Katherine is a repeat-offender who belongs to one of the most notorious gangs in Cardiff, the Champions. She claims that she had a sister, and that something happened between her sister and Michael to provoke her into attacking Michael, but there are no medical nor legal records about her sister. It is established that, after a history of violence at school, she fell out with her parents, who were both arrested for being associated with the IRA long ago. After running away from her foster family, Katherine became a vigilante and found herself inexplicably as a member of the Champions. Katherine argues for a reduced sentence in return for her cooperation in bringing in members of her gang.

Richard is extremely reluctant to allow this deal to follow through, demonstrating a keen hatred for members of any gang found in Cardiff, but Samuel decides to go through with it. Three years previously, a young Katherine and her sister Esther are harassed at school, and while Esther is very tender and peaceful, an aggressive Katherine frightens off several of the bullies, without getting into fights with them, impressively. However, after her disapproving parents abhor her for her aggressive behaviour, she only becomes more erratic, and at one point she actually assaults a classmate who makes sexual advances towards her, stabbing him in the back with a compass. She also breaks and enters into a teacher's house while wearing a mask in order to intimidate her to stop pressuring Esther. Esther learns about this and disapproves of Katherine's actions, which mellows Katherine surprisingly. At some point later on, she is involved in another fight, this time with two boys who corner her in the gymnasium. She attacks one of them, spraining his wrist, before doing the same to the other after taking a severe beating from him. Esther starts getting into fights herself, and though her father believes that it is because of Katherine, her mother is softer around both of her daughters, even consoling Esther after one particular fight.

However, on Katherine's eighteenth birthday, the house is raided by the police, who arrest Katherine's parents for being associated with members of the Irish Republican Army. During the trial that follows, Katherine learns that her father supplied bomb components and guns to the IRA illegally, while her mother made false passports and ID cards for several members. The trial takes a massive toll on Katherine, and when they move in with their foster parents, Katherine becomes withdrawn, not speaking to anyone and becoming aggressive whenever anyone other than Esther enters her room. During a conversation with Esther, a girl named Stephanie Kirk throws a brick through their window and Katherine is provoked into chasing after her. Katherine tries to confront Stephanie, but Stephanie's friends ambush her and beat her up. After enduring a beating, Katherine is taunted by Stephanie, before Esther arrives. Katherine is provoked by Esther's presence alone into attacking Stephanie, slamming her head against a tree and knocking her out. The other thugs flee when the police are heard and Katherine's foster parents accost her for starting a fight and reacting irrationally to the brick being thrown through her window. For this, Katherine has to pay for the window's repair. Esther decides to pay instead, but Katherine insists. Esther begins to worry a great deal about her sister.

In the present, Katherine receives a visit from a boy named Cameron Weaver, who explains that they haven't yet replaced her and that they applaud her actions in the woods at Heath Park. She asks for him to break her out, but he says that he can't because there are only two of them and too many police officers present. He says that they will have a meeting the instant that she breaks out. Samuel watches the entire conversation and decides to follow Cameron back to wherever he is going. He tracks the boy to an abandoned house, where he is revealed to be the leader of the Champions. Two years ago, Katherine and Esther run away from home, not able to cope with being with a surrogate mother and father any longer. They manage to stow away in a lorry and arrive in Cardiff, where Katherine is suspicious, especially when several teenagers start entering and leaving the pub repeatedly, going to one particular room. She enters the room herself, and meets Cameron for the first time, who befriends her almost easily. Together, the two of them raid a shop and elude Richard when he tries to track them down. The two of them share a drink, and Katherine introduces him to Esther. In return, he introduces them to the Champions, and offers her initiation into the gang. She and Esther both agree to this, and they quickly become members of the gang. Meanwhile, Cameron becomes enamoured with Katherine.

In her cell, Katherine is dragged back into the interrogation room, where she meets Richard again, and he asks her who supplied her with the knives. She claims that she stole them, but there is no evidence of original ownership from anyone on the knives. Throughout their conversation, Katherine breaks apart Richard and realises that he was a gang member himself, but of a gang she doesn't recognise. The entire conversation is recorded and Richard faces discredit, but not before he admits that he was a member of a gang that had long since been dissolved, but he had immersed himself in police work to prevent what happened to him to ever happen to anyone again. Katherine voices her disgust for Richard's kind, causing her to be locked in solitary confinement. Back in the past, during a massive gang fight in the streets, Katherine is injured, but she keeps fighting, showing a frightening amount of determination to Cameron. Out of the gang they defeated, a new one is created, calling itself the Valkyries, and Stephanie becomes the leader. She swears a rivalry with Katherine, who shakes it off. That night, Katherine and Cameron get drunk and they have sex. On the way out, Esther confronts Katherine and says that she is becoming a little too immersed in the life of a thug. Katherine argues with Esther, saying that it is better than the life they had after their parents were arrested for being connected with terrorists. The argument eventually fades, and Esther spends the night with Katherine, joking raucously over losing her virginity.

Later on, during a news report, Michael Worthington does a report of the gang fight, and away from the camera he becomes fascinated with the behaviour of Katherine and the Champions. He approaches her in a bar and tries to collect information, but she turns belligerent when she thinks he is trying to find out too much about them and leaves the bar, but he follows her and tries to befriend Esther instead. Stephanie, in the meantime, sends Corey, the strongest of the Valkyries, to raid the pub on his own and to assault Katherine to intimidate her. Corey breaks into the pub and tries to attack her but Katherine, anticipating where he will come, hides in the cupboard and then ambushes him from behind, beating him and alerting Cameron. It is suggested that he be branded for attacking them, but Katherine impresses them by suggesting that they simply demand retribution for the invasion of their territory. A parley is called with Stephanie, who has Corey returned to her, but the Champions have outplayed her already and Crowley awaits Stephanie to pass by, wielding a crossbow. He misses her deliberately, meant to intimidate her, and when she threatens to call the police, Katherine dares her to do so, since she can't risk it without unveiling her own brutal record. Cameron's father, Stanley, visits his son and is introduced to Katherine. He recognises immediately that Katherine and Cameron are lovers, embarrassing them.

In the present, Stanley is revealed to have been imprisoned after a fight with Michael Worthington several weeks ago, but it is not disclosed as to why. During a third interrogation, Katherine deduces that Richard himself had parents who were connected with the IRA, and taunts him with the rage and injustice of his predicament after he was put through three foster homes. Samuel recognises that she is using this as a defence mechanism because she is hiding something, and he asks her what Michael did to Esther. Katherine offers a bargain of that information, in return for a definite sentence reduction. She recalls how, a year ago, she and Cameron were on their first date, when Stephanie gatecrashed them and held a knife to Cameron's throat. Katherine responded by signalling for Cameron to swerve to one side, exposing Stephanie's side, where Katherine kicked her to the ground. The two of them fled into the pub where the rest of the gang were waiting, and Kevin drew them away. At the same time, Esther wanders into Michael, who knocks her out and then rapes her. He leaves her unconscious in Heath Park playground, where Katherine finds her the next day. Esther descends into a manic depression, distressing Katherine, until she commits suicide. Katherine becomes enraged and pursues Michael, leading to the fight in Heath Park from the start of the film. Upon hearing this, Samuel and Richard go before Chief Spencer Drake, who is indifferent about the entire situation, explaining that Katherine, sympathetic or no, has the mentality of an extreme thrill seeker - she can't help but cause trouble because it is the only option she perceives, making her too dangerous to be released.

Katherine is released, however, after Samuel loopholes regulations, since she has been kept in custody for 48 hours without sentencing, but she has a tracker placed around her wrist so that they know where she is going. The instant that Katherine leaves the station, she is waylaid by Stephanie, who brings several members of the Valkyries with her. She spots Cameron nearby and runs, drawing the Valkyries into Champion territory. The two gangs face off, and Cameron fights Stephanie. To his alarm, Katherine calls off the brawl, declaring that she has had enough of their fighting. She offers that they settle it with a one-to-one fight between herself and Stephanie. Everyone present is shocked by this sudden turn from Katherine, but Stephanie eagerly accepts. A brutal fight ensues, and Katherine wins, but refuses to kill Stephanie. In violation of the deal, Stephanie, demands that the Valkyries attack, just as Katherine knew they would. However, the police arrive, enveloping the area, and the Valkyries are subdued. Katherine and Cameron are allowed to escape, but Katherine is injured when Stephanie throws a brick at her head. Cameron carries her into a street, where a woman named Karen takes them in, hoping to see to Katherine's injuries. Kevin finds them and confronts Stephanie, who explains that she has been given a second chance and that she is sick and tired of fighting, since their involvement in the gang wars contributed to Esther's death. She declares that she has 'reached the last inch of the knife, and she doesn't want to bleed out forever'.

The gangs agree to part ways, mainly because they haven't achieved anything in their conflicts, and Cameron and Katherine continue their relationship. Stephanie is given to a foster home, since her parents died when she was little and she ran away from her orphanage. Six months after the reconciliation, Samuel, Stanley and Richard visit the two of them, and together they accompany Katherine as she visits Esther's grave. Katherine asks to be alone for a moment, and when she is alone, she starts crying and recalls what she did to Michael after learning that he'd raped her. He says that she did what she did because she was angry - not just at Michael, but at herself, because she wasn't there to protect her little sister, and did nothing while Esther fell apart and killed herself. She isn't angry at Esther for leaving her, but wishes that she had stopped Michael since, now, killing him didn't achieve much in her opinion. She starts crying even harder and Cameron comforts her. Katherine smiles after Cameron consoles her and they walk away from the cemetery.


  • Emma Watson as Katherine Beauregard, a young woman who has endured an extremely difficult childhood and devolved into becoming a part of gang violence after her parents' arrest, and she and her sister run away from home.
  • Ciaran Hinds as Officer Samuel Lomax, a police officer who tries to combat the gang violence in Cardiff, and comes into conflict with Katherine and her ideals.
  • Freddie Highmore as Cameron Weaver, the leader of the Champions and the 'superior' of Katherine's, who introduces her into the life of her gang.
  • Ewan McGregor as Kevin Wargrave, the landlord of the members of the Champions in the pub where they stay, who befriends Katherine
  • Elle Fanning as Esther Beauregard, Katherine's sister.
  • Liam Cunningham as Stanley Weaver, Cameron's wayward father who once commanded the gang before conceding leadership to his son, who currently lives with Kevin as a permanent lodger.
  • Sarah Bolger as Stephanie Kirk, the leader of the Valkyries, the rival gang to the Champions and Katherine's nemesis.
  • David Tennant as Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Shepley, a Scottish detective who was once a member of a now-dissolved gang and whose family had connections in the IRA.
  • William Moseley as Jamie, a member of the Champions.
  • Brian Blessed as Chief Spencer Drake, the chief of police in London who has an absolutely ruthless work ethic. He hates gang violence and strives to rid the streets of it by any means necessary.
  • James McAvoy as John Crowley, a local to the pub where the Champions live, who secretly supports the Valkyries by waylaying the police from their activities.
  • Chris O'Dowd as Christian Drake, Spencer's estranged son and a ruthless lawyer who strives to see any member of any gang, or any culprit of any crime for that matter, in prison.
  • Idris Elba as Corey, a member of the Valkyries who is considered the strongest and fiercest of its members.
  • Lena Headey as Diana, a member of the Valkyries who is savagely injured by Katherine during a brawl in the streets.
  • Aidan Gillen as Mike Worthington a news reporter who raped and murdered Katherine's sister.
  • Richard Armitage as Jake Kingsley, a news reporter who partners with Mike
  • Katie McGrath as Karen Wright, a woman who lives opposite a street where a gang brawl breaks out, who takes in Katherine after she is injured in that brawl
  • Emily Watson as Amy, a policewoman who works under Spencer.
  • Isaac Hempstead-Wright as as Charlie, the boy who attacks Katherine in the woods.
  • Ian Lavender as Chris, a coroner who declares for Michael Worthington.
  • Jamie Dornan as Katherine's father.
  • Helen McCrory as Katherine's mother.


Critical Reception

The Last Inch of the Knife received near-universal acclaim. The majority of the praise was directed at Steven Spielberg's direction and script, and Emma Watson's performance, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 98% based on 307 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. Its critical consensus reads 'Cruelly visceral and intensely well-acted, The Last Inch of the Knife brings out the true consequences of being alone, and what people are capable of when they are pushed beyond their limitations'. On the Common Sense Media website, the film has a 5-star rating, with its review reading 'Brutal, tragic story of love and injustice is both mature and enticingly thrilling'. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating to reviews, the film achieved an average of 87 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".

The New York Observer's Rex Reed declared that "one of the most important stories of the last decade is one of the greatest movies of 2017". Kaleem Aftab of The Independent gave the film a five-star review, hailing it the "Best British Film of the Year". Lou Lumenick of the New York Post described it as a "savagely enticing psychological journey where we are introduced to a violent criminal killing a seemingly innocent man at the start, and by the finish we see a tragic, misunderstood young woman finding peace at last", while critic James Rocchi added that the film is "a brilliant outing for Steven Spielberg, with his classic sentimental, emotional and complex writing". Empire described it as a "heartfelt drama film" and Glamour declared it "an instant triumph". Peter Debruge of Variety added that the film is "faultlessly written, woefully acted and poignantly directed". Critic Jordan Hoffman stated that "The Last Edge of the Knife is saddled brilliantly by an Oscar-worthy performance by Emma Watson, and excellent supporting work by David Tennant, Elle Fanning and Sarah Bolger". He gave the film four and a half stars out of five.

The performance of Emma Watson received universal acclaim, with Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly citing that "words cannot properly express how this young woman contributed to the tragedy and heart of this character, especially when she is introduced as a criminal. She shines alongside Freddie Highmore and Elle Fanning, and I salute her dedication to the character". She gave the film an A, describing it as "a fearsome, hypnotic return for Steven Spielberg", criticising the ending scene of the film's similarity with the ending of Saving Private Ryan, also directed by Spielberg. She praised his direction, however, and John Williams' musical score. Christy Lemire of the Associated Press highlighted the dialogue of the film, and the nonlinear story line, thinking that the weight of the film was improved by Spielberg's trust in his actors.


  • The film is rated R on account of repetitive intense violence, suicide, sexual content, very strong language and nudity.
  • During the interrogation scenes, Emma Watson got so into character that, in a shot where Katherine pulls on her handcuffs, she actually chafed her wrists.
  • Steven Spielberg worked on the script with Watson in the hopes that they could create a situation where she could portray a compelling character.
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