Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a fantastic sequel to the fantastic original movie, Knives Out. This doesn’t simply repeat the murder mystery formula of the first film, this murder mystery has a unique tone and structure. With a lot of Rian Johnson’s output, like The Last Jedi or Looper, he will take pieces of a genre, flip it around and subvert expectations, but then ultimately deliver what one wants. This is a puzzle box of a film that offers different perspectives on the same events, taking the audience on a journey of discovery. It’s also fun as hell with lots of big performances and hilarious moments, making for a awesome entry into the Knives Out franchise.
Word renowned detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) has been invited to a private island by a wacky billionaire, Miles (Edward Norton), for a murder mystery game party. Every year, Miles holds an event for his select circle he calls his Disruptors. There’s model Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), Twitch streamer Duke (Dave Bautista) and his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.) and politician Claire (Kathryn Hahn). Also, an unexpected arrival at the island is Miles’ former business partner, Andi (Janelle Monáe), who used a friend until Miles sued and removed her from the company. Benoit is an outlier with Miles having no idea how Blanc got the invitation, but Miles invites the world-renowned detective in anyway. And while the fake murder mystery party proceeds as planned, there are real deaths as there is a killer loose on the island, and Blac is on the case.
Glass Onion has a looping plot structure that wasn’t a huge aspect of the previous film which makes this entry distinct as at about the halfway point of Glass Onion the narrative is flipped. It’s an interesting way to revisit the first half of the film from a different point of view that doesn’t discount anything that happens in the first half. Since Glass Onion is going to arrive on Netflix on December 23rd, after a single week limited theatrical run, it invites the viewer to rewatch it almost immediately. Setting the film on an isolated island gives it a locked door mystery vibe. Miles’ office is a giant glass onion at the top, and the whole movie is about secrets in plain sight. The film opens with a puzzle box scene where all the Disruptors try to team up to solve it yet there’s a fantastic subversion of that at the end.
Glass Onion is set in mid 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was starting. Birdie is at a raging party, saying that they’re all part of her pod. There’s a fun scene when the characters arrive at the docks in various states of mask wearing, with Birdie wearing a mask with holes and the right-wing Twitch influencers not wearing any at all. There’s an arrival of a mysteriously efficient man played by Ethan Hawke who simply sprays everyone in the mouth and says the mask isn’t needed anymore. Is it just a faux-COVID fix or something only billionaires could afford? The movie never says which makes the bizarre bit funnier.
The movie is incredibly funny with a gaggle of crazy characters. Craig’s Benoit is great to watch with his crazy Southern accent that makes his lines even funnier. There’s a moment when Miles has set up the intricate murder mystery plot and then Benoit immediately deconstructs it. He’s not trying to be rude, it’s just how his mind works and he’s able to solve these things easily. As Miles, Norton plays a shallow person making pronouncements that sound profound but he’s just incredibly dumb. His compound is dedicated to how great he is, even having the Mona Lisa on display because the museums shut down at the start of the pandemic. Miles has a house guest, Derol (Noah Segan), who is great for one-shot reaction bits spliced throughout.
The influencer twitch streamer Duke is an awful right-wing troll guy and Bautista plays him as someone faking that he’s cool but he’s just timid. His girlfriend is deeper than the eye candy she’s initially presented as. Birdie is about as shallow as she seems to be as Hudson has all kinds of hilariously loud moments, and Henwick as Birdie’s perpetually worn-out assistant has fun bits. Odom Jr’s Lionel is working on a revolutionary energy source for Miles and the way it’s worked into the film’s climax is great. Politician Claire is two-faced and Hahn has some funny reactions as she worries what the murder may actually do to her political career. One of the best performances is by Monáe as Andi, who starts the movie off as a cypher, seemingly simmering with rage about being cut out of the company. When the movie twists around the narrative, Monáe gets to unexpected things as she confides in Benoit.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a fun and smart way to subvert yet also satisfyingly deliver a murder mystery story. It looks great, the characters are hilariously weird, and has lots of revelations throughout leading up to an explosive ending that is bombastic fun.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista