(L-R) Edward Norton as Miles, Madelyn Cline as Whiskey, Kathryn Hahn as Claire, Dave Bautista as Duke, Leslie Odom Jr. as Lionel, Jessica Henwick as Peg, Kate Hudson as Birdie, Janelle Monae as Andi, and Daniel Craig and Benoit Blanc in GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY. Cr. John Wilson/Netflix © 2022.
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019) doesn’t need a sequel. It’s a hilarious and delightfully stylized standalone film that showcases Johnson’s creative writing skills and directorial flair. It has an unbeatable cast, side-splitting one-liners, and a clever story that keeps us guessing until the very end. Why would any filmmaker try to match that success with a second movie? After all, sequels and follow-up movies are usually disappointing, and
Johnson had already set the bar pretty high with Knives Out. Maybe he wanted to challenge himself as a writer and director, or maybe he just couldn’t let go of the delightful main character, detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), and the colorful world that he inhabits. Whatever Johnson’s reasons may have been, he made the right decision in developing a second Knives Out movie. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery exceeds expectations and asserts itself as a movie that’s just as fun, just as funny, and just as unique as its predecessor. Much like the beautiful Greek island where the cast of characters convenes for their murder mystery party, Glass Onion is the perfect mental escape. The script is clever and packed with intriguing, subtle details, and the movie as a whole is a treasure trove of fun, feel-good entertainment.
Although the 2020 pandemic has kept detective Blanc away from his work for a while, mystery finds him again when he receives a strange invitation from a well-known billionaire, Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Every year, Miles hosts an extravagant reunion for his very best friends. This time, the gathering will take place on Miles's stunning remote island. The boyish billionaire has devised a thrilling murder mystery game that will keep his friends alert and entertained throughout the weekend. The group includes politician Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), former model Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), hyper-masculine influencer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), and Miles’s former business partner, Andi (Janelle Monáe). The guest list also includes Birdie’s assistant, Peg (Jessica Henwick), and Duke’s girlfriend, Whiskey (Madelyn Cline). The real mystery, of course, is why famed detective Benoit Blanc has been invited to this exclusive gathering.
A mystery story set at a murder mystery party might seem like a corny concept. But if there’s any writer who can make it work, it’s Rian Johnson. He even acknowledges the silliness of it all by leaning into the corny moments and pouncing on every opportunity to make a self-referential joke, like the running gag about how Blanc is bad at Clue (the board game). These obvious jokes are sandwiched between bits of obscure humor and laugh-out-loud one-liners. No matter what kind of comedy you prefer, you’ll find something to laugh at in Glass Onion. You’ll also find a handful of surprise cameos and clever cultural references that, if you notice them, will make you feel like you’ve been let in on a special comedic secret.
However, in that same vein lies the one minor downside to Glass Onion. Johnson tries very hard to make the movie relevant, and it shows. The list of main characters is a who’s who of public figure archetypes who all too easily find themselves at risk of getting canceled: the politician who needs funding for her next campaign, the scientist whose research takes him into murky moral territory, the internet influencer who keeps putting his foot in his mouth, the beauty queen who doesn’t think before she speaks, and the business woman who must weigh ethics against her own success. As secrets about each character’s past are revealed, we’re bombarded with PSA-like reminders about just how unethical public figures can be. Glass Onion jumps on the public-figure-bashing bandwagon without adding anything new to the discussion about cancel culture and the questionable ethics of celebrities.
So how do you turn surface-level social commentary into laugh-out-loud entertainment? You hire a cast that knows how to let down their guard and have fun. Glass Onion is such a fun watch because the cast is having a good time. Each and every member of the cast gives their stereotypical character a unique and memorable personality, bringing Rian Johnson’s world to life despite the overdone messaging. The group brings an electric and contagious energy to the screen that will have you coming back to Glass Onion again and again.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."