Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Director: Rian Johnson

Writers: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Janelle Monáe, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline

Producers: Ram Bergman, Rian Johnson

Music: Nathan Johnson

Cinematographer: Steve Yedlin

Editor: Bob Ducsay

Cert: 12 (TBC)

Running time: 139mins

Year: 2022

What’s the story: When a group of friends are invited to the island retreat of billionaire Miles Bron (Norton), they expect a weekend of well-heeled fun. But, the presence of master detective Benoit Blanc (Craig) suggests the good times will arrive with a side order of mystery.

What’s the verdict: Knives Out was one of 2019’s best surprises. A whodunnit with all the audience-friendly trappings of classic Agatha Christie stories, seen with modern eyes that played with convention and updated attitudes. With a $311m gross off a $40m budget, it was clear audiences vibed with this mix of old and new.

A sequel was inevitable. What was unexpected was that Netflix stumped up something in the region of $400m for two more Knives Out mysteries. Starting with Glass Onion. Will it be popular enough to entice sufficient new subscribers to warrant that wedge of cash? Who knows, but it is disappointing that the streaming giant is putting this into cinemas for one week only.

Make no mistake, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is, like its predecessor, a cut above most other movies clogging up multiplexes. Shame most people won’t get that big screen audience experience watching the film.

Those wanting to avoid spoilers, fear not, none shall be revealed here. In fact, as a public service, we would recommend you avoid the spoilerific IMdb cast page and Trivia section. There are revelations here you will want to experience fresh. So what to say of the plot? It swaps the autumnal browns of Knives Out’s New England setting for the bleached whites of a sun-kissed Greek island.

Said island belongs to billionaire Miles Bron. Invited for a weekend getaway are his fellow “disruptors.” Fashion “influencer” and walking faux-pas Birdie (Hudson). Alpha male YouTube cammer Duke (Bautista), his girlfriend Whisky (Cline), and soccer mom turned Governor Claire (Hahn). Lionel (Odom Jr.), Bron’s connection with the world, is present to ensure nothing gets messy, as is Birdie’s PA-cum-babysitter Peg (Henwick). Miles’ one-time associate Cassandra (Monáe) is also on the invite list. Completing the guest list is Craig’s Benoit Blanc, the world’s finest detective. That the theme of the weekend is murder-mystery is giving nothing away. What happens over the course of those brilliantly sunny days, you will have to find out for yourself.

Glass Onion brims with surprises. The plot reveals, shifts, misdirects, and subverts expectations. Character motivations and discoveries are handled with the deftness of a grandmaster. Delightful cameos abound. What surprises most perhaps is that writer-director Rian Johnson has managed to do it all again, without serving up a warmed over rehash of what we loved about Knives Out. Plot similarities are present, but in that Agatha Christie puzzle box manner that we understand is part of the deal.

And Johnson loves testing the potential of that puzzle box. He revels in the plot mechanics of the whodunnit, while sometimes taking a hammer to them (and not just figuratively). He realises how savvy his audience is, so is aware of how wild the twists and turns can become without losing them. Glass Onion is a title swiped from a meta Beatles song, so no wonder Johnson is reflecting the genre back at itself here.

After that original 2019 movie, what is unsurprising is how hilarious all this is. This Knives Out mystery boasts more laughs-per-minute than the first instalment, with gags packed into the visuals, dialogue, and performances. Often at the expense of those who have blundered into social media derived fortunes, or the billionaires who know how to game the system and call it entrepreneurship. Or disruption.

The cast (who presumably fell over themselves to join the Knives Out universe) are uniformly excellent. Man of the match remains Daniel Craig, who shifts between affable playfulness and 007 seriousness in a way that never grows old. But literally no-one strikes a wrong note (including those popping up in cameos), yet to say why would risk spoiling the fun. True, there is a case of more-is-more sequelitis to this, but all involved manage to bake it into the feel, and the point, of the film.

We have faith Johnson will deliver that contractual third movie with the same precision and panache. Until more is known about it, we can have fun speculating who will fill out the cast. And watching and rewatching Knives Out and Glass Onion: A Knives out Mystery.

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
Podcast: The Movie Robcast

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