Rian Johnson became one of the most divisive directors to exist when he created Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, separating Star Wars fans, casual moviegoers and critics alike. With Johnson’s next venture, he abandoned the science fiction genre entirely when went straight for a self aware whodunnit in the form of Knives Out. The first film received critical acclaim and was a box office smash, even receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. I never would have expected Knives Out to receive a spinoff/sequel, but here we are. And you know what, it is even more self aware, creative and wittier than the first.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a close group of friends are invited out to the private island of eccentric billionaire Miles Bron (played by Edward Norton). These friends, Claire (played by Kathryn Hahn), Birdie (played by Kate Hudson), Duke (played by Dave Bautista), Andi (played by Janelle Monae), Peg (played by Jessica Henwick), and Whiskey (played by Madelyn Cline) are expecting to have a fun light hearted weekend of a murder mystery of Miles. But the unexpected arrival of Detective Benoit Blanc (played by Daniel Craig) turns the playful party into a life and death stakes of cat and mouse.
Knives Out did a spectacular job of both subverting expectations and embracing elements that make whodunnit murder mysteries so damn enjoyable, keeping everyone guessing until the very end. Glass Onion is no different, playing as the straight forward mystery until the halfway point and then unending expectations with its sudden yet natural change in focus, turning the entire viewing experience on its head. Even if you had a guess as to who was the real killer, you are in shock and awe by the time the big reveal comes around.
Also this production design is beautiful and extravagant, like it would be something a stupidly rich person would live in. The island truly feels like something out of a whodunnit or a James Bond film. It even includes an actual Glass Onion! But every detail, every aspect of the physical layout is planned out to perfect, making for great cinematography and a well edited story. Not to mention how intentional the lighting of the film is, using it as a great foreshadowing tool for some character motivations, and to make for a pulse-pounding chase scene that could have been used well in a horror film. And again a FREAKING GLASS ONION!
Of course, the performances are the same as the first film: nothing short of perfection. The entire cast gives their all with fully realized characters with all their own complex motivations and personalities, with Madelyn Cline and Dave Bautista really surprising me with their performances. Edward Norton plays the billionaire to idiotic perfection, with his untouchable personality and an ego the size of his island. Janelle Monae was the showstopper as the beating heart of the conflict and showed off her range as an actress wonderfully. And of course Daniel Craig, brought new layers to Blanc as he tries to make him a more complex character than the one-note Sherlock archetype. My only complaint is his southern accent seemed to come and go. But besides that, each actor has great chemistry with everyone else, it would have been difficult to say that none of them hadn’t been friends for years.
Glass Onion is a film that had no right to be this phenomenal. It’s tightly written and witty story knows how to entertain plot twist after plot twist, keeping the audience on their toes. Along with gorgeous set design and a lavious location, it was easy to get lost in the mystery. Not to mention the performances are on a different level, with Daniel Craig, Janelle Monae and Edward Norton being particular standouts in my opinion. Knives Out was a great self aware take on the genre, but Glass Onion elevates the premise even higher by going all in and possibly being even more fun than the first. Hopefully we get more stories like this in the future!