A remix of the classic murder mystery, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, written and directed by Rian Johnson, proves that even watching a murder occur can be fun. With a new glamorous location, a star-studded cast, and following the first movie's success, it seems this film is hard to fault.
However, a few key features, other than the “disruptors” themselves, distract from an otherwise enjoyable movie. This article aims to summarize and analyze Glass Onion to provide an honest review for those who have already seen the film or are considering checking it out on Netflix.
First, a quick synopsis of the film: Glass Onion places world-renowned detective Benoir Blanc on a Mediterranean island owned by the lavishly wealthy tech industrialist Miles Bron and his supposedly closest friends under the pretense that they will be playing a murder-mystery game.
Nonetheless, it becomes clear that things are not what they seem when an actual death occurs. Of course, Blanc is swiftly on the case to uncover who the culprit is, but as with the first film, Knives Out, there are complex layers to the story (much like an onion).
In an interview with The Atlantic, Johnson spoke about his inspiration for Knives Out and Glass Onion. He revealed, “First of all, it’s a subgenre of the whodunit that I love—Evil Under the Sun, Death on the Nile, The Last of Sheila—the vacation mystery. I’ve been trying recently to dig up and watch more and more. But there’s not a lot of them. I think it has to be perceived as very popular to justify making a movie out of it.”
In addition, Johnson detailed how he strived to go beyond the classic murder-mystery genre with both films, stating, “It is a tough genre to do. It’s very easy to mistakenly assume that the mystery is what people are interested in, that the picking up of clues and solving the mystery is going to keep people entertained. It will for about 20 minutes. You need the heart of a thriller; you need some kind of actual story.”
Now, onto the review. Although several A-list actors, including Daniel Craig, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, and Edward Norton, among others, comprise the wealthy group of “best friends” the film centers around, I felt a general lack of richness (no pun intended) and underdevelopment when it came to a majority of the supporting roles.
With such multifaceted talent, leaving many of the characters in a similar state at the film’s conclusion as they arrived in—disconnected and uninspired—felt underwhelming.
In truth, most of my excitement surrounding the cast came from the brief cameos from Ethan Hawke, Hugh Grant, and the voice of the hourly “dong” sound, Joseph Gordon Levitt. However, Janelle Monae, whose character sits at the heart of the mystery, gave an electric performance as both Andy and her twin sister, Helen.
Not only did her character’s secretive plot with Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc provide, what I thought to be the most surprising twist in the film, but she effortlessly switched between the posh, controlled voice of Andy and Helen’s southern twang. Similarly, Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc did not disappoint, as the extravagant detective’s persona shone through just as brightly as it did in Knives Out.
Furthermore, Glass Onion has received immense praise from critics and viewers for its unique style that’s just as disruptive as the self-proclaimed “disruptors” in the film. In parallel to the first movie, many of the most crucial scenes in the movie are given from the perspective of multiple characters. As a result, viewers are provided with a holistic depiction of the film’s key incidents.
The bulk of my critique lies within the plot itself, particularly the film’s final twist, during which the killer is revealed. As previously stated, the moment where the audience discovers that Benoit did not receive an invitation like everyone else and instead met with Helen, was briefed on the group, learned of Andi’s death, and created a plan to uncover who on the island murdered her was genuinely shocking.
I truly believed that the mystery would center around who invited the world-class detective onto the island and why. Yet, I feel that this moment in the film is misplaced, as it rendered the final twist, revealing Miles to be the killer of both Andy and Duke, disappointing in comparison. Perhaps my love for true crime podcasts is to blame, but I suspected Miles the entire time. Who else could it have been besides the former business partner? Though I expected it to be Miles, at the same time, I hoped that Benoit would reveal the culprit to be someone completely unexpected.
So, I suppose, at best, my expectations were met? Moreover, towards the end of the movie, when Benoit delivers his speech revealing Miles as the killer, he expresses how lackluster the entire situation is, shouting, “No, it’s just dumb!” This dialogue is the only detail that makes me wonder if choosing Miles as the murderer, knowing he is the obvious choice, was purposeful.
Like its predecessor, Knives Out, this film seems targeted toward viewers who enjoy trying to outsmart the plot and guess all of the twists and turns before they are revealed. Still, set in a dazzlingly futuristic mansion on a Greek island, full of sparkling cinematography, and sprinkled with humor, Glass Onion is undoubtedly an excellent option for those looking for something light-hearted and simply fun to watch.
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