'Glass Onion' review: A sharper and more complete whodunit than the first
Courtesy of Netflix
Count me in the minority as someone who didn’t see the hype around Rian Johnson’s beloved 2019 whodunit “Knives Out.” One thing that did work, however, was Daniel Craig’s delicious performance as the Hercule Poirot-inspired Benoit Blanc and his deconstruction of the mystery even though you could see the finale coming from a mile away. Now comes the follow-up, “Glass Onion,” Johnson’s devious sequel that’s much sharper and more wacky than the first. In terms of scale, thanks to Netflix’s massive spending package to acquire the film, “Glass Onion” feels bigger and bolder, unafraid to take risky swings at the Elon Musk’s of the world while incorporating Covid into the plot alongside another incredible ensemble that’s anchored, again, by Craig’s sleuthy Blanc. This isn’t a sequel to “Knives Out,” but an entirely new adventure with a formidable mystery which has plenty of layers underneath its shell.
It begins with Edward Nortan’s billionaire playboy Miles Bron, an elitist who fancies himself and his group of buddies as “disruptors,” a term that gets thrown around loosely here. He owns a private island off the coast of Greece where he’s created a lavish utopia, and sitting at the center of it all is a gigantic dome known as the “glass onion.” He’s invited a close knit group of pals to partake in some weekend shenanigans, namely a well constructed/plotted murder mystery that quickly turns deadly. Among the roster of potential suspects includes a gubernatorial candidate (Kathryn Hahn), a hunky, men’s right activist (Dave Batusita), a literal rocket scientist (Leslie Odom Jr) and a former fashion starlet of the 1990s (Kate Hudson). But there’s an unexpected party crasher with the arrival of Bron’s former business partner Andi (Janelle Monáe) and Blanc, eager and hungry for a mystery to solve after being holed up during the pandemic, and who seems to be the only invitee without any connection to the group. Suspicious, much?
Johnson is a guru when it comes to writing tantalizing dialogue and complex bait-and-switches, including a major one midway through “Glass Onion” that ratchets up the tension and keeps the train from going off the rails. But at almost 140-minutes, the repetitiveness of the major themes and some of the humor grows stale. And, much like “Knives Out,” there are elements you can pinpoint long before the final reveal. Still, any sequel that can improve upon its predecessor is noteworthy and you can sense Johnson has more confidence in exploring the fundamentals and dynamics of this group of characters. But the main difference in “Glass Onion,” for those few who felt jaded by “Knives Out,” is the payoff and the journey to get there.
Craig’s Benoit Blanc remains one of the more ingenious creations of the last five years, a character who is whip-smart, well spoken, and incredibly performed. The marriage of these two entities can’t be matched. On the other side of the spectrum, Monáe is the standout in a field of newbies: calm, collected, and a viper when needed. Her character’s backstory gives the film its beating heart. Norton, too, is quite invigorating and letting loose in a manner reminiscent of his “Flight Club” days. Both actors excel under Johnson’s assured tone and direction, an auteur who laid a solid foundation for future installments. If there were a Benoit Blanc mystery every four years, I don’t think that would be a bad thing.
GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY opens in select theaters for a limited one week sneak preview Wednesday, November 23rd before premiering on Netflix Friday, December 23rd.