GLASS ONION review
I liked Rian Johnson’s Knives Out movie a lot. Among the year’s movies, it was a palate cleanser. On the surface, Knives Out is a murder mystery movie: simple, direct, and charming. But underneath it was a sprawling, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners product filled with twists and turns that deliver a conundrum for those who wish to play.
Everybody lies in a mystery story because everybody has some secret they want to hide. This is an aspect many people who pay cursory attention to mysteries tend to overlook and forget.
Everybody lies and has secrets they’re protective of. Those things are part of the arsenal assembled by the writer/director.
Rian Johnson never forgets that, and he dangles many of those secrets right out there in the open in Glass Onion, his follow-up to Knives Out. Daniel Craig reprises his role as world famous detective Benoit Blanc, who is as colorful of a detective any diehard fan could wish for. Craig absolutely slays in the role, and it fits him as well as James Bond did. (Yes, I know there are detractors. We’ll just have to disagree on that.)
In Knives Out, the mystery focuses on Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) who believes she accidentally poisoned Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). It’s a great story and I don’t want to spoil it, so suffice to say that Benoit Blanc ultimately gets it all sorted and saves Marta Cabrera.
The point being, in the first movie, we have viewer interest in a character who is desperately trying to save her own life. There’s more involved (there always is!), but we’ll leave it there for the moment.
Glass Onion offers no such character in the beginning. We have Benoit Blanc as our catalyst, and he’s been suffering from the ongoing solitude created by the pandemic as so many people did (and do). I missed that empathetic character because we aren’t allowed to get close to Benoit Blanc (much like Sherlock Holmes). So I sank into the magic trick Rian Johnson had up his sleeve (I guessed correctly, by the way, so I win! However, I didn’t have it all right).
With the possibility of an empathetic character not in the mix, I watched this collection of suspects and the murder victim from a distance. None of them were likeable, so I was suspicious of all of them. Which, come to think of it, might have been planned.
The setting, a privately owned island, is superb, and I’m astonished this movie only cost the same $40 million as the first. The casts of both movies are star-studded and offer an interesting mix as a group. Dave Bautista has been involved in a number of projects lately, some as lead and some as co-star or in a supporting role. I wouldn’t have expected him to be in a Knives Out production, but he was fantastic. Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom, Jr., Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Jessica Henwick, and Madelyn Cline were all terrific. Everyone pulled their own weight. Ethan Hawke had a walk-on role that was unexpected (though, after seeing him, I kept expecting to see him again).
Noah Segan starred as Derol, a slacker living on the island. Segan has been associated with many Rian Johnson projects in some capacity, and had a role in Knives Out. I’ll look for him in future Knives Out properties (at least one more according to the contract Netflix offered), but I won’t suspect him anymore. However, that will be the one time Rian Johnson counts on my willingness to discount Segan (in whatever role he occupies then) and makes me pay for my inattention!
The plot is an intricate and multi-faceted thing that took me off-balance again and again. That aspect started when Miles Bron (Edward Norton) initially announces the start of the murder mystery game everyone is there to play—Benoit Blanc tells us whodidit and immediately launches into a summary of the whole murder mystery.
Things become increasingly chaotic, and suspicion abounds. The game is properly afoot!
I had a blast with this movie and fans of the first movie will encounter much of the enjoyment and enigmatic excitement that they got in Knives Out. Rian Johnson has a bit of an Agatha Christie flare with an Angela Lansbury touch. There is at least one more Benoit Blanc puzzler coming, but I hope these are merely the tip of the iceberg.