Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, 2022.
Written and Directed by Rian Johnson.
Starring Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Dave Bautista, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Madelyn Cline, Leslie Odom Jr., and Jessica Henwick.
Famed Southern detective Benoit Blanc travels to Greece for his latest case.
Writer/director Rian Johnson has whipped up another eclectic ensemble for the southern-fried Foghorn Leghorn-sounding world’s best detective (according to Google), Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, unquestionably having a blast), in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (a clunky title that assumes viewers can’t put two-and-two together that this is an ongoing series).
More than unwieldy, the title also appears to be a reference and/or expansion of arguably the funniest scene in Knives Out, which sees Benoit Blanc inexplicably rambling about donut holes and how they connect to his frustrated state of mind solving the case. Here, the food-inspired wording of choice is “glass onion,” again representing the mystery’s nature; this one has layers upon layers to peel back.
Peeling back those layers with a lengthy flashback is where Rian Johnson shows his crafty brilliance while neutering the film’s momentum in favor of excessively connecting the dots, complete with smaller twists and turns re-contextualizing what we know about the characters and their motives, thus far. The scenes themselves are solidly entertaining, bolstered by rip-roaring sleuth chemistry between Daniel Craig and an actor I can’t name for fear of spoiling the movie, with small surprises sure to catch viewers off guard. However, even though Rian Johnson is still fortunate enough to rely on his screenwriting wit, a mammoth budget for lavish costumes and exquisitely shot production design, and brash personality on screen, one can also sense him trying to put more pressure on the gas pedal to catch these extended flashbacks up to the present.
That’s the risk a filmmaker takes when trying to deconstruct the whodunit genre further. There are many misdirections (this entire flashback sequence is practically built on them), although none quite take away from the obviousness and straightforwardness of the core mystery. That’s also not the say Rian Johnson shouldn’t imbue social and political commentary into his mysteries, but in this case, the layer is too thick; we are trained to watch and process narratives differently in this age of cinema, so as soon as a white billionaire pops off the screen making an idiot and ignorant jackass of himself at every corner, well, aside from the specifics, it’s hard to feel like there’s a mystery left to solve.
However, two things are going for that decision: the first is that Edward Norton (notorious for difficult behavior onset in the past) is the actor playing this up-his-own-ass billionaire Miles Bron, who invites his friends to his personal Greek island yearly. A smug superiority complex emanates from Miles, unmistakably resembling Elon Musk, making for a lightning bolt in bottle timeliness that surely not even Rian Johnson had planned.
Apparently, Miles has made his friends the success stories they are today; Janelle Monáe’s Andi Bran became his business partner, Kathryn Hahn’s Claire Debella was elected governor after floundering in politics, Leslie Odom Jr’s Lionel Toussaint went from third-grade science teacher to full-blown scientist, Kate Hudson’s Birdie Jay had her fashion career take off despite her ditzy behavior (there’s a scene involving the meaning of sweatshops that nearly killed me laughing) with support from her face-saving assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), and Dave Bautista’s men’s rights and Second Amendment activist wacko Duke Cody took off as a Twitch streamer while getting romantically entangled with aspiring model Whiskey (Madelyn Cline).
Each of them is invited as a reward for completing a puzzle mailed to them, with the invitation also mentioning that for fun, part of the week will involve a mock-mystery solving Miles’ fake death. Those plans go sideways when Benoit Banc (going out of his mind during lockdown and badly failing at playing Among Us with a murderer’s row of outstanding cameos while desperately seeking a case he can chew into) shows up with an invitation despite not having been sent one. It’s also amusingly established that Benoit Blanc hates traditional party mystery games such as Clue. Nonetheless, a real murder occurs with everyone a suspect, and it’s in the best interest of these people’s newfound careers to protect Miles.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery has its mystery shortcomings saved by the sheer hilarity of the characters. Janelle Monáe separates herself from the rest of the pack by smashing open her puzzle and retrieving the invitation envelope. She is generally terrific at playing the cold outsider, morally bothered by what Miles is about to do with his company. Dave Bautista is also a riotous scene-stealer, with everyone getting hilarious moments.
As a whole, the film also recovers from its wonky middle section for an emphatically exciting finale, elevated by a character’s actions aligning with and kicking our emotions into overdrive (and in a thematic sense, what Rian Johnson is going for is palpable). There are one too many layers, but Rian Johnson still delivers a rousing injection of immersive enjoyment.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com