CRIME, DRAMA, THRILLER
Storyline- Who can crack the case has been questioned and answered. And who is going to enjoy watching it? (Benoit Blanc!) (Well, you probably guessed beforehand; we did provide all the hints.)Famed southern detective Benoit Blace travels to Greece for his latest cases.
We’ll just go ahead and point you to the (likely?) key lyric from the 1968 jam: “Well here’s another clue for you all / The walrus was Paul.” Before you worry too much about dissecting the meaning of “Glass Onion,” both the main title of Rian Johnson’s second “Knives Out” feature (and just as delightful and inspired as the first film) and the name of a Beatles song from their White Album. Talk about having a “a-ha” moment. Unfortunately, John and Paul were just having a little fun with that song because the majority of their “Glass Onion” is more about poking holes in fan ideas than it is about disproving them.
It’s a suitable title for Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” which takes great pleasure in unravelling theories—the genre’s mainstay—and then piercing them to reveal something much funnier and more clever. With “Glass Onion,” Johnson isn’t inventing the mystery film from scratch, but he is having a hell of a time reorienting it to fit his witty narrative and lead super sleuth. Perhaps the only whodunit in which the lead character will exclaim, “It’s all so dumb!” after discovering the primary mystery (and be both correct and wrong in that assertion), and it’s better for it.
Johnson doesn’t need to worry about a sophomore slump because “Glass Onion” is a zippily and zanily its own thrill ride, and Johnson can’t produce these babies fast enough. While “Glass Onion” shares some similarities with Johnson’s 2019 smash hit (“stacked casts, lavish locations, Daniel Craig having the time of his goddamn life”), Johnson needn’t worry about a sophomore slump.
“Glass Onion” distinguishes itself from its predecessor right away. It is set in May of 2020 and is very much a “early pandemic” movie, not just because Johnson incorporates COVID-era living when introducing his characters, from a Zoom-addled Kathryn Hahn to a properly masked Daniel Craig. The movie also offers the kind of zany charms we all desperately needed both then and now. Johnson is clearly setting up new boundaries this time around. He arrives on the scene long before anyone is killed (nearly half the movie has passed before anyone passes away), introduces his large cast gradually (while keeping quiet about how exactly they are all so bonded), and diverts everyone and everything toward one another.
Johnson is giddily handing out crucial information right from the outset, but anyone who has seen not just “Knives Out” but any other whodunit mystery should be careful of swallowing the simple hints and codes that arise in its first act. One of the true secrets of the genre is Johnson’s masterful ability to make the essential exposition—who knows who, why, how, and what it all means—feel tenacious, enjoyable, and light. Johnson stretches out the first half of the movie with one tricky little riddle before slingshotting back and reevaluating the entire package, even though we know someone (or maybe even more than one someone) will pass away before the movie is over.
Craig’s Benoit Blanc watches it all the time. But that isn’t immediately clear when the episode starts because the bourbon-mouthed cop shows up completely disorganised. Benoit has struggled during lockdown, resorting to spending entire days in the bathtub with a group of famous friends, not even being disturbed by well-intentioned Zooms (the film is rife with cameos, none of which will be spoiled here). He truly needs a compelling argument to get his mind working again, and as luck would have it, one is developing while he relaxes in the bathtub.
Numerous flamboyant individuals are getting large wooden boxes sent to their homes across the nation, and only after some cunning prodding are they revealed to be a collection of puzzle games with an explosive invitation hidden inside. Soon after, we met their receivers, a somewhat peculiar group of people who seemed to be great friends, including ambitious governor Claire (Hahn), semi-cancelled influencer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson, nonetheless famous), dispersed scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), and musclehead YouTube sensation Duke (Dave Bautista). Each person is thrilled by the box as part of the excessive excitement of being friends with millionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton playing Elon Musk in his own unique way), who enjoys games and unexpected twists and turns as well as taking his very strange friend group on adventures.
This time, a private island, a long weekend, and the promise of a murder mystery game for laughs. Greece, which was filmed on location and looks suitably luxurious. Benoit Blanc, the best detective in the world, has been invited by someone else, and while that may sound like the nicest party favour ever, anyone with half a brain knows to flee if Blanc is assigned to solve a crime since that usually means someone is about to die. (This time, who is more important than how? That is a twist on top of a twist, indeed.
And who among these individuals — in addition to the great Janelle Monae who portrays Miles’ steely-eyed ex-lover Andi, Jessica Henwick who plays Birdie’s right-hand woman Peg, and Madelyn Cline who plays Duke’s fiancée Whiskey — actually has at least half a brain? That might be the biggest enigma of all for Benoit Blanc.
Along the way, Johnson pokes fun at capitalism, celebrity culture, pandemic worries, influencer culture, and even our current energy crisis. He also cracks at least a dozen very funny jokes about Jeremy Renner and “hard” kombucha. Keep an eye out for Miles’ hulking robot. (You can almost sense Johnson and director Steve Yedlin scowling at the crazy world these characters live in, one that has been richly realised by a superb production design team, and that is a compliment in itself.
It would be silly to reveal much more of the plot because doing so would both ruin the experience of watching a well-crafted mystery like this one get unravelled in increasingly brilliant ways (like a glass onion, there are many layers to peel) and take away from the joy of watching a film constantly turn in and out of itself. Although Johnson has painstakingly tried to ensure that “Glass Onion” stands alone, both because of its self-contained tale and the director’s unwillingness to repeating his old methods, fans of the first “Knives Out” will find plenty of the same aspects to adore.
The two are brilliantly woven together as a partnership (and perhaps more to come; at the film’s TIFF premiere, Craig declared he wanted to keep producing these movies for the rest of his life, and Johnson promised to keep creating them until his star stopped returning his calls). Benoit Blanc, the KFC-inflected dandy who somehow manages to be the brightest, nuttiest, and most sympathetic guy in the room in “Knives Out,” will be thrown into the deep end of yet another wacky-rich whodunit, which will only further enchant you if you enjoyed that movie. Craig is never as easygoing, carefree, or goofy as he is when sporting Blanc’s recognisable neck scarf, and suffice it to say, the man sports a neck scarf.
Johnson cheerfully switches gears to tell a completely new story that is wrapped inside his first one as Blanc “solves” one issue after another immediately arises (like an onion? Oh yes, turn it inside out (like a Bloomin’ Onion? (Let’s not be too foolish.) to twist minds, entertain his audience, and re-create the entire hilarious thing. What brought these folks together, and why? Who of them has committed murder? Who of them has committed murder? (Really, a big question in this genre delight that zigs and zags.)
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” premiered at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. Netflix will release it in theaters later this year, and on its streaming platform on Friday, December 23.