Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Benoit Blanc is back in this very different, yet incredibly entertaining comedic mystery. A big cast, bigger characters & an intriguing case for the detective.
Genre: Comedy / Crime / Mystery
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr, Jessica Henwick & Madelyn Cline.
Run Time: 140 min.
US Release: 23 November 2022 (limited release)
UK Release: 23 November 2022 (limited release)
German Release: 23 November 2022 (limited release)
This year is huge for murder mysteries! In February the shockingly ugly-looking Death on the Nile was released in theatres; a retelling of an Agatha Christie story, starring her famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Later that year we obtained a Gen-Z murder mystery with Bodies Bodies Bodies, mismarketed as a horror-slasher, and the last one to come out was See How They Run, which was a homage to the Christie-inspired stage play “The Mousetrap”. Now we obtain a sequel to Rian Johnson’s original story Knives Out from late 2019 / early 2020.
If you read my review of Knives Out, you’ll know that I am a big fan of the genre, really liking Rian Johnson's take on the ‘whodunit’ aspect. It was one of the most entertaining movies in 2020, so when this sequel was announced I was intrigued by what direction Johnson would take the character of Benoit Blanc. After seeing it in cinemas, I am happy to say, this sequel is good! So grab your magnifying glasses to snoop through my review.
The famous southern detective Benoit Blanc, accepts an invitation by tech billionaire Miles Bron, to travel to Greece for a murder mystery weekend. What starts as a game becomes grim reality, with Blanc needing to reassess his observations.
The director and writer teased a possible sequel, during the successful opening weekend of Knives Out, explaining that he had fun developing stories that surrounded his detective character Benoit Blanc. The sequel was then officially greenlit in early 2020, with Netflix outbidding Apple, as well as Amazon, during a bid in March 2021 to obtain the rights to the series.
The title of the sequel is a homage to The Beatles’ track “Glass Onion”, which was intended as a joke by Paul McCartney since people were reading too much into the band’s lyrics. It is also the perfect metaphor for Johnson’s cinematic franchise, which is multi-layered and yet quite transparent simultaneously! This follow-up to the first detective mystery is once again a complete subversion of the genre, deconstructing the complete ‘whodunit’ facet, just to put it all back together in the last act. In fact, there is not much murder going on in the first two acts, it is at the end of the second half that something happens.
The story is very different from the first flick, with just a few key points being similar. Instead of a dysfunctional family dynamic, audiences get presented to a group of people in a broken friendship. Then there is the nonlinear storytelling, where everything comes together at the end. Other than that, this second instalment tells a completely different narrative; yes, it is once again criticising the rich but instead of old money, Johnson now takes a swing at the newly rich. Finally, the pandemic was implemented as a topic in the plot.
The dialogue, especially the line delivery from Daniel Craig, still contains the dry wit from the first film, however, the quality of dialogue has been dialled down to the level of these narcissistic personas, who converse using a simpler (or made-up) vocabulary.
As in the first premise, Glass Onion is filled with important characters played by big-name actors. Given that I want to keep my review short, I will breeze through most of them, focusing again on the main three personas.
The first thing to know is that the characters are over-exaggerations of different public figures, who the director likes to poke fun at. Dave Bautista gives a hilarious rendition of a famous twitch streamer, advocating for men’s rights and bodybuilding. Kathryn Hahn is fantastic as the governor of Connecticut, who is running for Senate. Kate Hudson overdoes it a little as Birdie, a former supermodel turned fashion designer, who gets into constant trouble for writing controversial statements on social media platforms.
Edward Norton was cast as the big tech giant Miles Bron, giving another brilliant performance as an unlikeable, self-obsessed narcissist. Intentional or not, the character feels like a satirical amalgamation of Zuckerberg, Bezos, though mostly Elon Musk. Miles is the centre of the group of friends, manipulating them to do his bidding most shamelessly. He is also not as intellectual as he thinks, creating fun embarrassing moments.
Daniel Craig returns as the lead Benoit Blanc and is once again fantastic, as the witty southern investigator. Craig picked up his work with a dialect coach, to regain his southern drawl. Blanc is the centre point of this detective feature, being completely out of his element which makes for the most amusing scenes, as he stumbles around trying to figure out the lifestyle of these absurdly rich people. Being the only one without connections to the guests and host, he tries to figure out why he was invited in the first place.
Janelle Monáe plays Cassandra “Andi” Brand, the stand-out character that is pitted against this group of jerks. Andi used to be one of the group, yet a fallout changed everything. Monáe gave a very sweet, emotional rendition of her persona, which becomes even more impressive as the plot progresses.
Technically, the camera work underlines the contrasting storytelling. While the preceding flick had a quality that made it feel as if shot on celluloid, this sequel has more of a digital look. Not only does this suit fantastically to the background of most characters, but returning cinematographer Steve Yedlin still managed to give it fine nuances. Lights plus shadows are again used to full effect, while the camera plays trickery on the viewer, trying to distract from what is going on in the background.
While Knives Out did keep its sets, plus effects practical, this sequel contains more visual effects, as well as computer magic. It is mostly well-handled, though, there are times when the CGI is very noticeable. A shame, as I applauded the use of practical props and effects in the prior picture. Nonetheless, most of the effects do look great, as does the magnificent costume design.
The music by Nathan Johnson, who also returns as a composer, has a more oriental touch as well as serves as a progression to the original soundtrack.
Verdict: Knives Out is still my favourite film of the Benoit Blanc series, that said, this follow-up is not far behind in quality. The director and writer managed to surprise positively, by creating a completely different plot from the first movie. Yes, specific aspects are kept untouched, however, overall it is non-identical. Most important, Johnson manages once again, to entice the audience in wanting to figure out what is going on! The cast is fantastic; everyone brings their A-game, with Janelle Monáe being the stand-out, giving an impressive performance! Daniel Craig is once again fabulous as detective Blanc. The cinematography, just like the narrative, differs vastly from its predecessor but is solid, though the effects do not always convince. I am excited to see more of the world of Benoit Blanc’s in future instalments and will give Glass Onion an 8.0 out of 10.
Have you seen Johnson’s new detective story in cinemas, or are you waiting for the Netflix release in December? Let me know what you thought & as always, thank you for reading!