GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY (2022)
Release Date: 12/02/22 [Cinemas / Netflix]
"Famed Southern detective Benoit Blanc travels to Greece for his latest case."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
“My Dear Friends,
My beautiful disruptors,
My closest inner circle.“
These are the words that start this whole mystery, and it's these words that best describe Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion. Glass Onion, more so than its predecessor, is about the ego and performance created to become admired by the world. Its story becomes representative of the online world of the early 2020s, the destructive power of wealth, and how the revolution has been co-opted by the machine that runs the world.
A disruptor pushes the system beyond its limits. It breaks the mold past the point of applause. It creates something new in unique ways previously thought impossible. And Rian Johnson is the great disruptor of the modern era. Once again, Johnson has shown a mastery of the murder mystery genre with Glass Onion. Subversion is disruption, and Johnson’s understanding of the tropes associated with whodunits enables him to subvert these in both subtle and overt ways. This has been true for each Johnson project, from Brick to Knives Out, and Glass Onion is no exception. Its uniqueness comes from its divergences from Knives Out, and the ways it works to distance itself from that film.
Benoit Blanc forms the only returning character, as the Southern detective made famous in a New Yorker article who everyone has read a tweet about. Daniel Craig returns to the role and puts on a powerful performance, that at once appears to be one thing while being something completely different. Likewise, Janelle Monae is a true superstar, playing as Andi, the spurned ex-business partner who comes to the party only to sow chaos. The smaller stars are given the most to do, with Madelyn Cline and Jessica Henwick playing Whiskey and Peg respectively, two supporting characters who have more going on in their life than the celebrities they assist.
But not everyone has layers of meaning in this world. Enter Edward Norton, Kathryn Hayn, Dave Bautista, Kate Hudson, and Leslie Odum Jr. Each gives life to the influencers and disruptors, whose loyalty never falls far from the one handing them wealth. This small cast defines the film, all of whom couldn’t be more different from the next. Duke Cody, played by Bautista, is an alt-right men's rights advocate who seemingly lacks respect for any women in his life. Bautista’s performance is truly immaculate, capturing the very ethos of individuals like Andrew Tate with his words, and portraying power through his movement and size. Likewise, Edward Norton does a terrific job as the tech billionaire who disconnected from everyday life in the most fascinating ways. His portrayal of Miles Bron is the most beautiful glass onion, seemingly full of layers, and yet quite transparent. Norton uses his screen presence perfectly, adding importance to every word he says, despite what is being said.
And it is this juxtaposition between sincere performance and absurd writing that enables Glass Onion to be Rian Johnson’s funniest film to date. Every joke serves the story, immediately reflecting the personalities of this group of upper-class individuals, as well as orienting the viewer to key events. And much like its predecessor, Glass Onion has a pivot point that changes everything about its story, and it's all the more interesting because of it.
I’d be remiss to not discuss the longtime collaborators with whom Rian Johnson has told many stories, and their contributions to this film. Cinematographer Steve Yedlin revolutionized digital shooting through gate weave and luminance values for Knives Out, and those film like processes are still present in Glass Onion. Editor Bob Ducsay has worked with Johnson on his films since Looper, and again enables the small details to take center stage, even when we don’t know of their importance. Production designer Rick Heinrichs, who worked with Johnson on The Last Jedi, uses his blockbuster expertise to set the tone for the elite world of Glass Onion. Likewise, Art Director Andrew Bennett worked with Johnson on The Last Jedi, and gives Glass Onion the empty and clean aesthetic representative of its wealthy characters. And composer Nathan Johnson, who like Yedlin, has worked with Rian Johnson since his debut film Brick, once again captures this film's spirit in its unraveling score.
Glass Onion truly feels in the vain of the classic Agatha Christie whodunit, full of fun characters, beautiful settings, a mysterious murder, and present social issues. These elements were present in Knives Out, and this sequel continues to show Johnson's understanding of the genre, in spite of its many differences to Knives Out. No longer is the film set in a mansion of frosted windows, but outside on a bright island with perfectly transparent glass. Glass Onion has a depth to its visuals that immediately make it feel like a film from a different generation. But its ability to capture life during 2020 is unlike any other film in existence. Like the best murder mysteries, Glass Onion is a time capsule of this time period, and it’s apt and humorous depiction makes it a film worth watching time and time again.