Peel back the layers of Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion, the follow-up to crafty 2018 whodunit Knives Out, and you’ll find a cinematic allium with a center with such a clever sting it’ll make you weep.
While the original was a fun, humor-heavy caper filled with stars that interlaced Sherlock Holmes with The Pink Panther, the sequel takes one things one step further, utilizing its crafty wordsmith and equally impressive cast to concurrently dazzle the brain and work the funny bone with a fun mystery movie that’s caustic wit and thrilling central crime crosspatches together classic Jacques Tati, Poirot, Ross’s The Last of Sheila, and even the classic spoof film – this one satirizing high-income earners. Johnson’s out to mock the modern-day millionaires who’ve seemingly turned nothing into their something – you know the types.
Here, the richest of the bunch invites his closest associates to an island where he plans on having them solve a staged murder mystery.
Solve a murder they will – but little do they know they’ll be assisted by an uninvited guest and the who’s and why’s will be much different than the ones proposed.
Elon Musk-like biotech CEO Miles Bron (Edward Norton) sends his pals (who he calls ‘disruptors’) an elaborate puzzle box that hides an invite to a murder-mystery party at his island getaway. This is the Futureworld of getaways too – one where Robot dogs are the concierges, Jared Leto’s hard kombucha (with nine-percent alcohol) keeps everyone nicely fueled, and the actual Mona Lisa hangs in the gallery, on loan from the Louvre during the pandemic.
Of those invited, former model Birdie (Kate Hudson), Mile’s bitter ex and former colleague Andi (Janelle Monáe), Claire (Kathryn Hahn), an uptight governor, Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), Miles’s uneasy head scientist; Duke (Dave Bautista), a muscly but self-doubting online influencer, and his girlfriend, Whiskey (Madelyn Cline); Birdie’s hard-working assistant, Peg (Jessica Henwick), and Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). You’ll find out why and how he got an invite later.
Blanc doesn’t know what he’s there for, and surprisingly, neither does Miles – who assures the appreciative detective the invite didn’t come from him. Thankful he’s there though the host is, after all, a real-life mystery solver will enjoy participating in the game Miles has planned.
The statement gets thrown around more often than a flat Riddell at Warwick Capper’s house but there’s no getting about it, they just don’t make movies like this anymore – not often anyway.
For a detective yarn, one that’s emphasis is on its ingenious, unpredictable structure as much as it is its conceit and cast of characters, Johnson – who before his switch to Star Wars with 2017‘s The Last Jedi was renowned for such films – delivers a sequel that’s much, much better than it might be in any other filmmaker’s hands.
This is a feature that’s been painstakingly structured, every detail perfected and fleshed out, as clever and captivating as possible, with everything from the performances, direction, story, location, lighting, production design, music and continuity department so finely and delicately chopped and browned.
Daniel Craig, as comfortable as the goofy Benoit as he was Bond, is clearly having a hoot here but when the whole cast – standouts being Norton, Hudson, Monae, and the underrated Bautista – are on fire, delivering their dialogue with such zing, it’s difficult to describe the British actor as the film’s main drawcard. This, as likely intended, is an ensemble film where everyone’s got their equal share of juicy dialogue and moment to shine.
Like the puzzle box Johnson sends his characters at the start of the film, Glass Onion cleverly slips you all the info you’ll need but hides them so well within in its tidily constructed, faultlessly designed script that you’ll not fully appreciate the film’s brilliance until the Beatles’ track (Glass Onion, of course) plays out the film.