Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that a “layers” pun is an obvious headline for Glass Onion. Forgive me.
When Knives Out was released in 2019, it was a pleasant surprise. Rian Johnson, of course, had already proven many times over to be a more than capable filmmaker. But no one could have anticipated quite how huge of a hit the film would be.
It had a stacked ensemble cast of stars that had seen brighter days (Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis), regulars of the IP machine (Chris Evans, Daniel Craig), relative newcomers (LaKeith Stanfield, Ana de Armas), and some arthouse favorites (Toni Collette, Michael Shannon).
For many, this was immediately viewed as an all-star cast. For people less familiar with the work of these legends, it was closer to a cast of “hey! It’s James Bond! And Captain America! And the woman from the Activia commercials!” But that woman from the Activia commercials proved that she’s still got it and fans fell in love with Knives Out. It quickly became a question of when, not if, a sequel would be made.
Three years and one pandemic later, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery has finally arrived! I am so pleased to say that it is just as good, if not better, than the original Knives Out!
The film begins with a title card that includes the year 2020 – something that I have begun to despise. We watch as several people receive a mysterious box. Among them, a former super model and fashion mogul who brings controversy anywhere she goes (Kate Hudson), a meninist Twitch star (Dave Bautista), the Governor of Connecticut (Kathryn Hahn), and a scientist (Leslie Odom Jr). The box contains an invitation from their tech billionaire friend, Miles Bron (Edward Norton), to a weekend away on his private island and a stay at his residence, the titular, Glass Onion.
Once they are all on the island, we find out that one of the guests, Andi (Janelle Monáe), is not as welcome as the others. She helped make Miles the billionaire that he is before the two had a falling out and the others were left to pick sides.
A Welcome Return
After we have been introduced to the new cast of characters, we check in with our hero: the brilliant detective, Benoit Blanc (Craig). Feeling depressed without any good cases to keep his mind sharp, it comes as a great surprise when Blanc is told that he has received a mysterious box.
Just what he needs! Excitement!
It’s not long before our new crew of suspects find themselves intertwined in a murder mystery!
Just as the first did, Glass Onion does an excellent job at setting up each character. Despite the film being a true ensemble piece, each star gets a moment to shine. The script is just as sharp as the first and it is readily apparent that the cast meshes well together. Despite it, at first, seeming like one of the most random assortments of actors to ever play a group of friends.
MVP in a Movie Filled with Them
As I am writing this review, I have the desire to pick one member of the ensemble and declare them the MVP. Admittedly, it is a harder task than I originally thought. I could go with Bautista for his over-the-top streamer antics. Or Norton for his pitch-perfect, smarmy attitude. Hudson surprises in hilarious ways in first major role in years. Craig, Hahn, and Odom Jr. all have their arguments as well. But the one I keep coming back to is Monáe.
They are truly one of the most exciting new stars of the past decade. Here, they consistently bring laughs, as well as a jolt of energy to the film. Just when you think you understand the character’s motivations, you realize you have no idea.
An Unpredictable Puzzle
And that is truly the best thing I can say about Glass Onion. The murder mystery is a genre as old as time. The sequel to one of the most successful modern examples is a risk. Between Johnson’s sharp writing, stylish direction, and a cast that is fully game, Glass Onion breaks the mold. The twists and turns keep coming and I assure you, you do not know where this movie is going.
It is a beautiful puzzle box of a story. The new location and the fully realized cast of characters allows the audience to take Glass Onion on its own merits. Yes, Benoit Blanc is back but this is not Knives Out 2. This is a brand new, original mystery and it is treated as such by everyone involved. It is such a breath of fresh air in an industry that bends over backwards to connect new films to those of yesteryear. Glass Onion is a complete success on its own.
We Want More!
The pivotal piece of any murder mystery is the mystery part. Johnson continues to subvert audience expectations and it left me hoping for more. It is a cliché to say at this point, but I want Johnson and Craig to continue teaming up for these forever. I want several more Benoit Blanc stories. I want the best character actors and the most extravagant locations and I want one every three years until the end of time. Every sequel will be met with open arms, as long as Johnson continues to reward us.
Glass Onion is the rare sequel that may improve upon its successor. And if, for you, it does not, I feel confident that it will at least meet your expectations. Just give yourself over and enjoy solving the mystery!