It’s been a tumultuous few years for director and writer Rian Johnson. His work on The Last Jedi should have solidified his career as an auteur. Yet backlash spread quickly, and Johnson pivoted to the world of comedic mysteries. Taking a page out of Agatha Christie’s many books seemed wise. Yet few expected Knives Out to become a smash hit at festivals, the box office and crash the Oscar party. With the world at his fingertips, Johnson chose to double down on another mystery starring Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). Releasing on Netflix, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story swings bigger than the last film but somehow feels more poignant.
Benoit Blanc (Craig) finds himself aimlessly playing games with friends while cooped up in his house. He struggles to stay functional without a case to solve (due to a pandemic). However, a knock on his door brings him an opportunity: to attend a murder mystery party for secretive billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Bron surrounds himself with highly influential friends, including a politician (Katherine Hahn), his best scientist (Leslie Odom Jr.), a right-wing vlogger (Dave Bautista), the vlogger’s girlfriend (Madelyn Cline), a fallen model (Kate Hudson), her assistant (Jessica Henwick), and his former business partner (Janelle Monáe). However, someone in the group feels their world is at risk and will kill to keep their secrets.
Johnson lets his performers go big, and perfect casting sells each aspect and perspective of the story. However, no one ever overshadows the story. Instead, Johnson allows his actors to steal the stage for a scene at a time and shifts around the cast. By the time the stakes get truly high, we have a relationship with everyone on the island. A well-told story, simple but effective editing, and dynamite performances win again.
Johnson’s screenplay also gets the chance to show off, and boy, does he. Not only is Glass Onion dripping with societal commentary about billionaires, but it never misses a laugh. The jokes are so specific and memorable that they will make their way into your friend group by New Year’s Day. He also includes excellent visual gags and biting satirical bits. Johnson lays miles of track for jokes that will pay off an hour later. Yet the film has already become funnier, as real life began to imitate art after the film wrapped. Johnson saw a story like Glass Onion on the horizon. He simply had to let someone bring it to life.
Craig once again thrills as Benoit. He gets to showcase a wise-cracking intellect, and the departure from Bond becomes more evident daily. He exudes happiness and fun in the role while ensuring he’s the star of several hit films. Hard to argue against Craig as one of our few movie stars. Norton and Monáe also steal the show. Norton shows off his arrogance and willingness to commit to a character. He’s charming, yes, but feels larger than life in his pseudo-hippie role. Meanwhile, Monáe brings a chill to the Adriatic Sea, and not only because of her icy approach. She becomes a gravitational force in the scenes that require it, showing her promise as an actress once more.
The remaining cast all give off the exact vibes you’re expecting. Hahn, Odom Jr, and Hudson are funny as hell. They also possess an edge of danger that lurks beneath their every action. Bautista gets to play the idiot, but it’s clear the gears are turning below the surface. Cline and Henwick might be new to some audiences, but the fact that they can hang with this ensemble says everything. Even a handful of cameos make for exhilarating moments.
The only real knock on Glass Onion comes from a withholding of evidence. However, many of these issues go away when there’s a perspective shift in the film. Once that occurs, the rest of the story falls into place. However, this can be seen as a cheap ploy by Johnson. However, at the same time, there’s an argument to be had that Johnson puts everything in place sight. This might make some viewers too focused on the outskirts of the screen, ignoring the critical development occurring in front of our eyes.
For all the humor and craft to piece together Glass Onion, something feels missing. It is not always clear what that is, but small moments do not always come together. As a result, a few scenes are weaker than our last Benoit mystery. We may want it to be as tight as Knives Out, but Glass Onion does let some looser threads into the tale. Still, expect us to be there for any of Johnson’s whodunnits on the horizon.