"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" TIFF Review
The Last Jedi haters are rolling in their graves, as Rian Johnson has pulled off another incomprehensible feat with Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. A sequel to 2019’s Knives Out, a great igniter to the revitalization of the whodunit genre, was always going to be a tricky obstacle to overcome. In stepped Netflix, who gave Johnson the necessary blank check to indulge in his wildest fantasies. And because of that, he has crafted a whodunnit that is grander, funnier, stranger, and perhaps better than the original.
The Thrombey family has been dealt with and a whole new cast of characters has been assembled within Glass Onion. None of these people are bound by blood. Instead, they are all old friends that go by the “Disruptors.” The leader of the group is Miles Bron (Edward Norton), whose billion-dollar fortune allows him to live on a private Greek island. Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.) is the lead scientist at Bron’s company. There’s also Senate candidate and family woman Claire (Kathryn Hahn), airheaded fashion model Birdie (Kate Hudson), gun-toting Duke (Dave Bautista), and his much younger girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline). The black sheep of the group is Andi (Janelle Monáe), who was excommunicated after she lost a lengthy lawsuit against all of them for stealing her business idea.
Every year, the group (minus Andi) receives a puzzle box invitation for a weekend getaway on Miles’ island. This year, however, invitations have also been sent to Andi and to Mr. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), whose mind is turning into mush as the COVID-19 pandemic has him shut inside without a case to crack. As you expect, the fireworks begin to go off once all these characters are assembled in one location. Long-held secrets are spilled, violence is enacted, and everyone is a suspect.
As is the location and budget, the mystery here is much larger than in the original film. Double crosses become triple crosses, which then become quadruple crosses. As another testament to his dominance over his genre contemporaries, Johnson’s ability to control the material as both a writer and director are unparalleled. Through slick editing and a tactical sense of pacing, he’s created another murder mystery where the placing of the puzzle pieces is just as satisfying as seeing the whole picture.
Monáe takes over the Ana de Armas role from the first Knives Out. She’s Blanc’s intelligence, laying out the details of each of these theory characters, and what motives they may have to harm another. Talking specifically about how she effortlessly overcomes the challenge of her role would require going into spoilers, so you’re just going to have to take me at my word that she’s incredible.
The rest of the cast doesn’t have as much pressure on their shoulders, but they still shine when they need to. Norton is his signature smarmy self, complete with a flashback scene of him donning Frank Mackey’s outfit from Magnolia (a decision I can only imagine was explicitly targeted toward me). Hudson gets many of the laugh-out-loud moments, and Hahn chews the scenery as usual.
Of course, Craig leads the pack, whose enthusiasm for the role is immediately infectious. Watching an actor known for playing the most serious iteration of James Bond don a pinstripe swimsuit and spew information with a comically overdone southern accent is such a sight to behold. Luckily, Craig’s relationship with this character is much more positive than Bond, so the future is bright for further travels around the world.
Glass Onion skillfully embraces and overcomes the usual dangers of doing the same thing as the original, just on a bigger scale. As the first of two planned sequels by Netflix, I can only imagine what Johnson is going to serve up next.