Introduction to Glass Onion
Rian Johnson is a great writer and director. Ever since I saw Looper in 2011, I knew I would be watching every single one of his movies going forward. The elephant in the room of course being The Last Jedi, the second film of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. While I think The Last Jedi is a good movie I do agree with every single piece of criticism, the movie undermined the possibility of a viable overarching story-line for the trilogy. That said, criticism should also go to the Force Awakens writer and director J.J. Abrams for creating a far too conventional start to the series. Anyway, The Last Jedi is The Last Jedi. I like it and I still think Rian Johnson has a lot of talent; few people deny that. This he amply showed with his 2019 movie Knives Out, a whodunit starring Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas. This movie, with its ensemble cast and many nods to prior whodunits such as those based on the works of Agatha Christie Rian reinvigorated the genre. Frankly, ever since Knives Out I have been binge watching similar movies: the adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile most prominently but also a classic such as The Last of Sheila from 1973. Rian Johnson admits he borrowed a great deal from these stories, yet Knives Out stands on its own – it’s a work of genius. Let’s find out why.
Knives Out starts out as a murder mystery. The murder victim is the family patriarch Harlan Thrombey, the suspects include his family and the detective is all set to start sleuthing. However, in a surprise twist around 30 minutes in we learn through the eyes of Martha the nurse that she accidentally overdosed Harlan. Because we are sympathetic with her situation, we want her to escape detection. As such the movie changes genre from a detective into a crime story. However, near the final act there is a major plot twist, the overdose was orchestrated by Harlan’s grand-son Ransom and he meant to set up Martha. Thus, it once again becomes a detective story. The clues were there for viewers to see and detective Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig, had his suspicions from the beginning. Knives out is a fantastic movie to analyze and there is a wonderful set of videos on YouTube that does exactly that.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Soon after the release of Knives Out Rian Johnson announced it would become a series with detective Benoit Blanc as a recurring character. So now in 2022 Johnson has released Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Controversy exists in that officially it is a Netflix movie that just happens to also get a limited theatrical release. For those worried this is some kind of TV movie, don’t worry, it is a full cinematic production. It is just that since COVID other sales channels such as Netflix are being emphasized by the studio.
Glass Onion is set on a little Greek island, the home tech billionaire Miles Bron, played by Edward Norton, who has invited his old college friends for an annual weekend of partying. This year is a little different because there will also be a murder mystery to solve and Benoit Blanc has been invited to help solve it. However, appearances can be deceiving. At the end of the first act Miles Bron confronts Benoit Blanc with the fact that he had sent no invitation. Bron ensures Benoit he can stay and help uncover who did invite him and why. It is a remarkably simple setup for a murder mystery in which no actual murder has been committed. Benoit reminds Miles that most of his so-called friends hate him because they are completely dependent on him for their success. One of the guests, Andi Brand, has an obvious dislike for Miles as she was once his business partner. Miles begins to suspect he might be targeted and asks Blanc for help. Things take a turn when once of the guests actually turns up dead with the intended victim having been Miles Bron. Or at least, that is how it all appears.
Now I am not going to spoil anymore. You should go and see the movie yourself and experience the twists that happen after this point which comes in at around the half-way mark. Suffice it to say there is a major twist not unlike the genre bending first movie. I have seen Glass Onion a number of times now and I am still seeing details for the first time. Yet, I did not view it to over-analyze every scene and this is not an analysis video, but I think there is plenty of substance to warrant more viewings to better understand the subtle nuances Rian Johnson wants to convey.
Glass Onion is not as good as the original
Glass Onion is not as good as Knives Out. It is a very good movie, but it does suffer from issues plaguing other movie sequels. The setting on the Greek island is far too opulent and does not provide the same kind of intimacy as the mansion in the first movie. However, the island retreat does emphasize the silliness of Edward Norton’s character Bron. Additionally, the secondary characters do not come to live as much as they did in the first movie. The ensemble cast are not top-tier character actors as they were in Knives Out, but there are some exceptions. Jessica Henwick, who played one of the Sandsnakes on Game of Thrones, excels as Peg the personal assistant to Birdie J. Despite not being one of the original friends of Miles there is an understanding between the two, strengthened by the fact that Birdie J is a bit of a screw up and Miles worries about his investment in her company. Another character I liked is Andi, and her twin Helen, both played by Janelle Monae. Until the final twist she plays both characters with an intensity that does much to wrongfoot the viewer.
Finally, Daniel Craig is again standout as Benoit Blanc and once again sports his Kentucky Fried Drawl. Yet there are differences in the character this time Benoit is more physically active and more readily admits that until the final act of the movie he didn’t have clue as to what was going on. That said, Benoit looks different in this movie. Daniel Craig is a bit leaner and that gives his character more energy.
So, there you have it. The Glass Onion is a worthy sequel to Knives Out, but not as good. I think because Rian worked on the Knives Out script for years that it makes it better. While Glass Onion has subtlety the overarching theme is that the rich billionaire is a tool and his friends lack substance, the Glass Onion has been peeled away to reveal very little. Glass Onion makes more use of cheap gags to underscore this point and that kind of humor might not suit everyone. While I think Glass Onion works best as a cinematic experience it can now only be watched on Netflix. But I do recommend it very highly. If you have not seen Knives Out then I suggest you watch it first, but it is not absolutely necessary. I hope you enjoyed this short review, so please hit the like button, but you can also subscribe to my channel. That way you will never miss a video.