Over the past several years, the whodunnit murder mystery genre has seen an astounding resurgence for the modern film landscape. On one hand, there are the Kenneth Branagh directed and starred Agatha Christie adaptations of the adventures of Hercule Poirot, the isolated See How They Run, and on the other hand, the Rian Johnson written and directed Knives Out. The first Rian Johnson entry coming in 2019 to resounding acclaim, critically and from audiences adding the intelligence back into the whodunnit sphere. Johnson’s follow up, which had the rights of two sequels bought by the streaming service Netflix in 2021 for $469 million, follows the same ingenuity, intelligence and flair for theatrics that the previous film brought.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery or simply Glass Onion for this review, in many ways is a better entry than the previous. Rian Johnson is back writing the script and directing and as sequels normally go – its bigger and longer, however the same craftsmanship that Johnson gave to Knives Out is more tightly wound here. Following in the Agatha Christie route, the main character is heralded as the best detective in the world, who can solve any mystery placed before them. For Knives Out and Glass Onion that is Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).
With razor sharp intellect and a uniquely fine-tuned accent of Foghorn Leghorn admiration, Craig returns to a new mystery to solve with a major difference than the previous performance. A new layer to his personality – one that adapts to the circumstance to the players involved in this round. Like the onion in which the film is named (after the Beatles song), I imagine there are many layers to Benoit that we have not been introduced to yet but will be waiting for with bated breath.
Don’t let the thick southern accent fool you, Benoit Blanc is the smartest person in any room he’s in – he just has the right amount of humble mixed into his dazzling charm.
For one week starting on November 23, Netflix took a swing that the streamer hasn’t attempted before, solely for more favor come award season – putting Glass Onion in a theatrical release window. Strategy wise, this was the best possible move for the benefit of the Rian Johnson sequel largely due to the entertainment value Glass Onion boasts. Seeing it with an audience will make the viewing experience richer and will cause a bigger stir in the pot for the word of mouth this will surely generate.
Just like with the previous entry, Glass Onion has many strengths in its repertoire – the script being one of them. Johnson yet again crafts a mystery that’s fun to solve as the events are playing out – guessing whether right or wrong on who could be behind the murder that will be taking place. Injected into the screenplay is a large dose of perfectly placed humor – adding levity to the overall seriousness of a murder taking place between a close-knit group of people.
To remain completely spoiler free, though Im sure plot details will inevitably emerge in the coming weeks until the release on Netflix, Glass Onion follows Blanc as he is mysteriously invited to a small island to solve the fake murder of its host – that is until an actual mystery is presented to Blanc to solve.
The host is multi-billion-dollar tech owner Miles Bron (Edward Norton) who, for the past 8 years has enacted this extravagant plan to involve his closest friends subsequently called “disruptors” to a weekend getaway. This time, taking place during peak Covid-19 pandemic on an island off the coast of Greece. A giant Glass Onionsits atop Bron’s creative compound full of allegorical messages. Making up the disrupters include Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), a senate candidate for Connecticut, Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), head scientist for Miles company Alpha, Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), supermodel turned influencer, Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), a Men’s Rights activist and Twitch gamer, and Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe) Miles’s former business partner.
Along for the ride is Peg (Jessica Henwick), Birdie’s outspoken yet brutally honest assistant and Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), Duke’s girlfriend and Twitch assistant. All of whom share an equal animosity and purchased reverence for Miles and his wealth.
Looking at the stellar, talented cast, Johnson gives more significance to some over others. Craig is the clear lead, but its Janelle Monáe who steals all of the attention whenever she has screentime. Her poise and multi-faceted talent shines the brightest among the rest of the talented supporting cast. Comparing this group of characters to the Thrombey’s, similarities are sure to be found. But each Thrombey had more dimension to them than the few that get the short end of the stick for the greater narrative.
Wherever they pop up Kathryn Hahn and Leslie Odom Jr. are two talents to enjoy watching their work. Their characters were given the back seat to Monáe’s Andi and Dave Bautista’s Duke. Underutilized but still adding wonderful to watch performances. Bautista, coming from the world of wrestling has transitioned nicely into a talent that keeps surprising with every role. The Drax actor in whatever he pops up in (which is growing steadily) is a welcomed addition to any cast. His presence may be larger than life, but his skill is increasing – trusting his growth as he explores different roles.
Edward Norton taps into the egomaniacal megalomaniac that certain Bond villains of the 70’s possess. In his compound are several outrageous pieces that are easy to spot but brilliant in execution. One scene he’s depicted as a Steve Jobs type techy, but he fits the role comfortably mimicking some real-life counterparts with precision and a satirical nature.
Performances aside, the screenplay may take a hit midway through, depending on the viewer. Johnson goes a non-linear route for telling this story that does add more complexity to the already established cast of characters. It’s here that the twist is revealed but it’s the momentum that ultimately suffers. At 2 hours and 20 minutes, Glass Onion is paced rather evenly until the midway point. The same way that Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel is told, Johnson takes that approach. A welcomed choice for the chess pieces who aren’t given much but for the overall enjoyment, it’s a risky choice, nonetheless.
Overall, Glass Onion is a worthy sequel to its Knives Out predecessor. Wildly enjoyable, funny and smart, Rian Johnson has a clear talent for the whodunnit genre and is a welcomed original for those who want to steer clear of the Agatha Christie model of storytelling. Benoit Blanc is not to be underestimated under any circumstance – his next case is sure to be a doozy. See it in theaters if possible but the wait for the Netflix release is only a few short weeks away.
Screenplay By: Rian Johnson
Directed By: Rian Johnson
Music By: Nathan Johnson
Cinematography: Steve Yedlin
Starring: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista
Release Date: November 23, 2022 (1 week theater run), December 23, 2022 (Netflix)
Running Time: 2 Hours 19 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%