Peeling the Layers
(This review is spoiler-FREE. The film releases widely on Netflix on December 23rd, 2022)
The original Knives Out was a breath of fresh air that breathed new life into the murder mystery genre. Not only did it provide a compelling screenplay and boast an excellent cast, but it also subverted tropes in how one processes a whodunit with various plot reveals and twists placed in unexpected areas. Director Rian Johnson has taken its sequel, Glass Onion, and built upon the excellent foundation to create a film that is bolder, funnier, and more shocking in all the right ways. The film doesn’t try to replicate the original but continues to have fun in playing with various tropes and introducing new elements as well. It’s a more complex sequel but one that ultimately succeeds and exceeds expectations for a film that demands to be viewed more than once.
Tech billionaire Miles Bron sends elaborate puzzle-boxes to invite his friends for a “murder mystery party” getaway on Glass Onion, his private Greek island. As the prospect of murder looms large, Benoit Blanc is put on the case before things get out of hand.
The screenplay is the film’s strongest suit, and the synopsis above doesn’t do enough justice to the many intricacies and complexities this mystery has up its sleeve. The narrative positions its fantastic cast all on the island together and constantly has you guessing what each one’s true motivations, knowledge, and insights may be into various situations. The titular Glass Onion serves as a proverbial metaphor as the film pushes forward at such a breezy and brisk pace. As you move along, layers are peeled back to reveal that there is more at the center than what one initially thought. What the film sets up in its opening act, completely changes by the time act two comes around, and transforms again as the film draws to its closes. This continual shakeup kept the film fresh and exciting, and once you have all the pieces you will want to watch it all over again knowing what is truly at the center of the onion.
The film boasts a fantastic cast similar to the first film each with its own social archetypes the film’s commentary pokes at. From senate candidate Kathryn Hahn to fashion-designer that tweets racial slurs in Kate Hudson to the eccentric billionaire hosting the party in Edward Norton, each character’s construct serves as an intriguing performance that teeters on the edge of commentary on social structure and classism. Then there’s Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, who arguably has become one of the best and well known detectives in modern cinema history. Craig’s performance is iconic as he mixes genuine shock and amazement with show stopping deduction and sleuthing. He produces some of the best comedy for the film but also anchors the cast toward the unlayering of the onion.
While the original Knives Out had subtle commentary on immigration and social welfare, Glass Onion pokes thematically at the power of wealth and the power money holds over people’s lives. Set in a lavish private island with a “glass onion” dome right at the center, the power money has in everyone’s lives comes to fruition in each of their lives. The power of betrayal, convenience, and status that money brings, but also that it doesn’t buy its way to any sort of happiness, intelligence, and in a brutally honest way, justice. Johnson pokes fun at this in both perfectly timed comedic moments but also allows it to have just enough impact without feeling like its throwing a message in your face. Its subtle, which offers the best kind of escapism in its narrative with a feeling nuance to take home and chew on.
The one downfall of the film is that it is only being released in theaters for one week and then releasing on Netflix later in the year. I thoroughly enjoyed the theatrical experience this movie provided and while I do not think the impact of the story and characters is lessened with an at home experience, I can not more highly recommend that you see this film with a crowd if you’re able to. This film is too good to just be a sit at home watch, and I am honestly excited that there will be more films to come in the future.
Glass Onion is a bolder and more complex sequel but one that sets itself apart beautifully from its predecessor. It builds upon the twists and subversion of the first film while paving the way for a compelling and very often exciting mystery. This is undoubtedly one of my favorite films of the year and I cannot wait for more sequels to come. Benoit Blanc is a force to be reckoned with.