Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (LFF Review) – A Fab Mystery With Plenty Of Layers

DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson

CAST: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Ethan Hawke, Dallas Roberts, Jackie Hoffman, Noah Segan

RUNNING TIME: 139 mins

CERTIFICATE: 12A TBC

BASICALLY…: Detective Benoit Blanc (Craig) investigates a murder on the island of a tech billionaire (Norton)…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

This review of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery was conducted as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2022.

Director and writer Rian Johnson’s 2019 film Knives Out is often credited with revitalising the classic movie whodunnit, but the truth is that there was never really a point in time when that kind of movie went out of style. Sure, it was much more of a major critical and financial hit than some of the other major murder-mystery movies released in the years prior, but the appetite for seeing large ensemble casts gathered for a compelling investigation into an untimely death has not dwindled since the days of Agatha Christie; this year alone has seen such films as See How They Run and Bodies Bodies Bodies put their own fun spin on the classic template, and not once did audiences seem to grow tired of this formula.

So, as Johnson returns to the fold with his standalone follow-up Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (as it’s being advertised for marketing purposes; it’s just Glass Onion in the movie proper), with the whodunnit structure now perhaps more popular than it ever was, the pressure is undoubtedly on to construct a new mystery that not only keeps audiences guessing, but also reminds them of exactly why these types of movies will never truly be considered passé. The good news is that Johnson manages it once more, with a film that’s fascinating, unpredictable, extremely funny, and – most of all – overwhelmingly entertaining, perhaps more so than even the first Knives Out mystery.

The film takes place in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with virtually the whole world either stuck indoors or taking extreme precautions to not catch the virus, none of which doesn’t stop tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) from sending his closest friends – including embattled politician Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), misogynist vlogger Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) and his younger girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), and problematic fashionista Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and her long-suffering assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick) – invitations to his private Greek island for a luxurious getaway, and a playful murder-mystery game. However, two additional guests manage to crash the party; one is Cassandra Brand (Janelle Monáe), Miles’ bitter former business partner, and the other is Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, the only actor to reprise his role from the previous film), the world-renowned Southern fried detective. It is Blanc’s presence that proves most useful when, perhaps inevitably, the murder-mystery game becomes a bit too real for its own good… and, honestly, that’s all I really want to say about the film’s plot without getting into any spoilers, because much like the first Knives Out movie, Glass Onion is one where you need to go in knowing as little as possible beyond the basics.

All you need to know beyond what the above paragraph just described, is that Glass Onion manages to deliver genuine surprises that completely blind-side you at first, but then will add a lot more weight and gravitas to previous scenes that didn’t seem important in the moment. There are things that are revealed in this movie, from what the real underlying plot is, to why certain characters act the way that they do in particular situations, that do not deserve to be ruined for anyone hoping to go in as open-minded as possible, because when the curtain is finally pulled back, it’s such a pleasant shock to the system that it sucks you in even more than you already were. Between this and the first film, Johnson is extremely smart at bending the rules of straightforward filmic storytelling, including playing around with frame composition and precise editing, to keep the viewer guessing right up until the last second, which kind of makes the film feel like an extended magic trick where you just don’t know what this filmmaker is going to pull out from his sleeve next.

However, Johnson doesn’t let his cleverness get the better of him, and gives his film such a vibrant sense of humour that is often more hilarious than some of the year’s more straightforward comedies. There will be times when you will be laughing like crazy at some of the sight gags, lines of dialogue, minor inflictions in some of the performances, and even random things going on in the background (one of the film’s greatest sources of laughter revolves around a random guy named Derol, played by Johnson lucky charm Noah Segan – whose role (or lack thereof) I won’t dare ruin for you here). Whenever the film cracks a joke, even in the middle of some rather intense sequences, you never feel like it’s tonally disruptive, or as though a completely different movie has taken over. The humour honestly makes this universe seem more appealing, because it takes so many shots at several different things like overindulgent wealth and hare-brained ideas about how to change the world without being too self-important or blatant about itself, a trap that other wealth-skewering films like Triangle of Sadness tend to fall into. Instead, Johnson allows his performers to tap into their lighter sides and make their characters feel genuinely fleshed out, including Daniel Craig whose Benoit Blanc remains an absolute hoot of an onscreen sleuth, and other standouts like Kate Hudson and Janelle Monáe who generate a lot of laughs from traits which, again, won’t be ruined for you here.

Above all else, Glass Onion is a film that completely grips you from start to finish, with an entertainment factor that is frankly off the charts. As in Knives Out, Johnson packs in so many crowd-pleasing moments that are not only earned but also genuinely satisfying, to a point to where it almost doesn’t matter who did it in this whodunnit since you’re having too much fun on this wild journey toward the inevitable destination. By the end, you’ll feel as though you’ve had your eyes, mind, and even parts of your body given a pleasant workout, with energy to spare for more irreverent murder-mysteries with Benoit Blanc in the future – all while reiterating that the subgenre that both this and the previous film were said to have revitalised never even needed revitalising in the first place.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a fabulously entertaining murder-mystery that goes bigger and smarter than before, with results that aren’t just extremely funny and crowd-pleasing, but also legitimately clever with its ideas and filmmaking that make you respect the ambition and passion for the filmmakers and the wonderful ensemble cast.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery will be released on Netflix from Friday 23rd December 2022.

It will also be showing in cinemas for one week only from Wednesday 23rd November 2022click here to find a screening near you!

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