Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) Review

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Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Director(s): Rian Johnson
Actor(s): Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson
Film Genre(s): Drama
Running Time: 139 min
CGM Editors Choice

To say that Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery improves upon its predecessor is something of a simplification. Rian Johnson, who returns to write and direct after blowing critics and audiences away with his Benoit Blanc led murder mystery that revealed both killer and cause of death within 45 minutes of its over 130-minute runtime, once again gives us a simplistic story whose richness is due to the sheer breadth of the layers which he peels away at his leisure.

Yes, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is both clue and an indicator that the various threads only appear complicated. But suppose there’s anyone best suited to unearth them. In that case, it’s celebrity detective Benoit Blanc, once again played with comedic grace under pressure by Daniel Craig, complete with a southern accent that’s all the more amusing for its obvious falseness. Who but Rian Johnson would dare to choose an actor so synonymous with one of the most famous British characters of all time to portray the ultimate ideal of a compassionate Southern Gentleman for today’s world?

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Rian Johnson is also aware that any mystery taking place in our current moment will feature the root of all evil when all is said and revealed. In Knives Out, that face could convincingly be a self-made elderly man who is determined that his children would throw off the entitlements of modern wealth, which has trapped each of them in various forms of arrested development. 

But in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Johnson finally has the playground he needs to give us a portrait of today’s wealthy, complete with a remote location and various attendees who have all gathered due to the golden handcuffs they’ve locked themselves into. It’s essentially a tribute to Johnson’s genre inspirations, with Agatha Christie references abounding, including an early cameo by Angela Lansbury.

In Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, the main architect of the shackles is billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton, in full sleazebag mode), who has invited his inner circle of friends he’s dubbed the disruptors, and their closest employees and/or hangers-on, to his remote private island for a murder mystery party. It contains some of what we’d expect, from many of the elite services designed to most amaze and rattle us, including robot servants, and the most symbolic, the building designed after the glass onion, which also acts as a living reminder of the bar of the same name where Miles got his start and met many of the disruptors for the first time.

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There’s also the familiar Christie setup which handily supplies a motive to all of the players and a mystery over how our viewpoint character got his invite. Typically standouts emerge, but what exactly is a standout when you have the cast, which includes Kathryn Hahn as a state Governor, Dave Bautista as a misogynistic fitness influencer, Kate Hudson as a fashion designer and former model, and Leslie Odom Jr. as a brainy scientist? Even relative newcomers Madelyn Cline and Jessica Henwick as the long-suffering girlfriend and assistant, respectively, shine as they attempt to navigate the moneyed egos.

“There’s so much to appreciate with Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery…”

The key area where Johnson departs from his influences with Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is that they typically depend on a status quo to give audiences some escapism in an uncertain world. At the same time, Rian Johnson’s sympathies lie with those who are typically denied access to power. There’s the shrewd use of the setting for one, which is during the height of the 2020 pandemic, which sees Benoit nearly going insane with boredom. Once they arrive at the island, a mysterious spray which indicates the all-clear for masks during their fiddling-while-Rome-burns luxury retreat.

The one with the potential to burn it all down is Janelle Monáe as Miles’s former business partner Andi Brand, who was pushed out after she had a few moral objections to their company’s latest product. On the nose? Perhaps, but nobody will mind once Monáe digs into her role. She is the key to the reckoning which awaits the wrongdoer and by extension, the system itself.

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Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022). (L-R) Kate Hudson as Birdie, Leslie Odom Jr. as Lionel, Kathryn Hahn as Claire, Edward Norton as Myles, Jessica Henwick as Peg, Madelyn Cline as Whiskey and Dave Bautista as Duke. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022.

Her dynamic with Craig is the reason the story unfolds like a platonic twist on The Handmaiden with more sympathetic male characters. Not to mention more cameos, with Serena Williams, Stephen Sondheim, Natasha Lyonne, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Yo-Yo Ma all showing up to play themselves, and that’s not counting Hugh Grant and Ethan Hawke in a few small roles, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt lending his voice to a massive clock’s hourly chime.

There’s so much to appreciate with Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, in fact, that the mystery becomes somewhat beside the point. Unlike what Miles creates, it’s high quality, with cinematographer and frequent Rian collaborator Steve Yedlin lending everything a polish that makes the obscene wealth feel almost aspirational, at times even tasteful. There’s no concealing the rot at its core which affects every aspect of our culture, though, with each of the disruptors unwittingly acting as living avatars for how far its reach extends.

How exactly does one bring the one responsible to justice? As Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery darkly suggests, it may be too late to go through official channels. But people tend to find a way at the right moment, especially when the filth becomes so infectious that even those who benefit most may find complicity too big a risk.

Final Thoughts


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