Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)
Director: Rian Johnson
Screenwriter: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Dave Bautista, Edward Norton, Jessica Henwick, Kathryn Hahn, Kate Hudson, Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out was quite the sensation when it premiered in 2019. It was a fresh take on the whodunnit, proving there’s life in the genre yet (since furthered with the releases of See How They Run and ‘Only Murders in the Building’). We dug our teeth into the ingenious mystery of the death of Novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) after his 85th birthday, and the film introduced us to a new sleuth in the shape of Daniel Craig’s southern musical-loving Benoit Blanc, with the then-Bond playing wonderfully against type. Boasting an all-star cast, Knives Out was such a kaleidoscopic success that many may have been dubious regarding the chances of successful sequels, especially given the $400million cost to Netflix. Thanks to even more laughs than before, we needn’t have worried.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery sees Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) travelling to the private island of an eccentric millionaire in the middle of the Mediterranean. As with the first film, the cast is both eclectic and star-studded; here we have Dave Bautista as a youtuber, Kate Hudson as a supermodel and fashion designer, and Leslie Odom Jr as a genius scientist. Also along for the ride are Kathryn Hahn’s Claire Debella, the Governor of Connecticut, and Janelle Monáe as Cassandra “Andi” Brand, a tech entrepreneur. Rounding out the main cast is Edward Norton as Miles Bron, whose island much of the action takes place on. In addition, there are a wealth of exciting cameos…
The shift in setting helps differentiate Glass Onion from the more autumnal first film, ensuring a brighter and more sun-drenched offering. The island setting can’t help but draw comparisons to some of Agatha Christie’s best loved works and their adaptations, specifically “Evil Under the Sun”, although at times the film feels like it is drawing on elements of “And Then There Were None”.
Cleverly not wanting to succumb to sequel curses, Glass Onion feels bigger and bolder than its predecessor. While the first film poked fun at elements of racism and the alt right, this film feels like its aim is placed more on tech billionaires and the upper middle class with some unsubtle comparisons to real-life figures – it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see Sarah Palin in Claire, while Miles could easily be a counterpart to Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. While some of its criticism is more on the nose, for the most part it hits the mark and is a wildly entertaining time.
As with the first film, Rian Johnson shows a penchant for needle drops with an eclectic soundtrack including the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody”, The Beatles’ “Glass Onion” (which lends the film its title), Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa”, and several tracks from David Bowie.
Many of the cast are playing against type and clearly relishing the opportunity. Daniel Craig is afforded more of a central role here, with the lack of a clear replacement for Ana De Armas’ Marta Cabrera guaranteeing that we get to see more of Benoit’s sleuthing skills. Johnson is able to develop the character with Craig once again committing to absurdist dialogue and physical comedy. Kate Hudson is a standout as the scene-stealing Birdy, lighting the screen up every time she appears, while Janelle Monáe anchors much of the film’s narrative as the mysterious Andi whose relationship with the group is seemingly strained as we unpick what occurred. Monáe once again expresses the depth of her screen presence glimpsed in Moonlight and Hidden Figures.
If lacking in the surprise factor of Knives Out, Glass Onion is a riotous time, dialling up the laughs and mystery with cameos and surprises galore, and layers of clever dialogue and writing. It is a different beast than the first film but nonetheless impressive, with Johnson showing his love for the genre and the greats in crafting a fine mystery film all of his own. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery will be sure to please fans of the first film and murder mysteries more widely, whetting appetites for the announced third instalment that is still to come.