Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery Review

REASON: Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) travels to a remote Greek island to solve a murder involving a reclusive tech billionaire (Edward Norton).

REVIEW: Knives out will probably be one of TIFF’s biggest success stories. The film was considered a risky gamble in its time and proved to be a sensation on its first screening. Finally, Knives out was a huge hit at the box office that Netflix (who picked up the rights to the series) has turned into what is bound to be their first real franchise. Glass onion: A Knives Out Mystery is bigger and perhaps even more brilliantly written than the first, with an amazing cast led by Daniel Craig and Janelle Monáe.

Whose Glass onion suffers at all is that we go into it expecting a twisted murder mystery, whereas the original surprised us by being so unique. It was such a sensation that it made the genre hip again, taking it out of the living room of an Agatha Christie mystery and modernizing it. More than anything, it was a rare adult movie that played well on the big screen, and while this one will have a theatrical component, I bet more people will watch this streaming than they will on the big screen.

That’s too bad, because Johnson, clearly working with a bigger budget, has crafted a lavish murder mystery that pays homage to one of his oft-cited influences, the 1970s whodunnit. The last of Sheila. The film cleverly uses the pandemic as a jumping-off point and explains the move to Greece, where Edward Norton’s reclusive tech billionaire’s inner circle has been summoned. He wants them to play a murder mystery game, and Blanc has been invited along. For the very bored detective, who has spent most of the pandemic sulking in a bathtub, the trip proves a welcome distraction, and it’s not long before he realizes he’s among another rogues gallery full of people with secrets to keep.

There’s Dave Bautista as a goofy “men’s rights” activist (but isn’t portrayed as particularly hateful), who’s big on Twitch (with Madelyn Cline having her trophy boyfriend “Whiskey”), Kate Hudson (in a hilarious performance) as a canny fashion mogul (with Jessica Henwick as her horrified assistant). Kathryn Hahn is an up-and-coming politician, while Leslie Odom Jr. is Norton’s very busy number two.

Everyone is brilliant, but two of the cast absolutely steal the show. One is Edward Norton, who hasn’t been this loose in years and channels the so-called “genius” innovator type to perfection, with a particular flair for malapropisms. He would dominate the film if it weren’t for Monáe, who initially comes across as low-key but quickly emerges as perhaps the most impressive player in the entire film. That said, the less known about her role, the better.

As for Daniel Craig, Blanc is again primarily an observer as the plot revolves around the friends, but he gets more screen time than he did in Knives out. We learn a little more about Blanc this time around, and I expect that as the series goes on, Johnson will drop more clues, making him less of an enigma as time goes on. Once again, he’s heroic, with more interest in justice than any personal reward, and his chemistry with Monáe is just as strong as it was with Ana de Armas. Johnson has a knack for casting, but I imagine that given how brilliant his writing is, every actor in Hollywood wants the chance to speak his dialogue.

Playing in a bigger sandbox this time around, Johnson can’t resist the urge to go a little bigger, and the climax takes advantage of that Netflix budget. The 139-minute running time may be a bit indulgent, but after a slightly slow start, things move along at a nice pace. It takes a while to settle into the mystery, but once the key players arrive in Greece, the film is off to the races and doesn’t let up until a familiar Beatles song plays on the soundtrack.

One thing worth noting is the impressive production design, with the set being the actual Glass Bulb of the title, which would have made Ken Adam proud. The score by Nathan Johnson is excellent and packed with some unique pin-drops, and the film is jam-packed with cameos that hopefully no one ruins.

While I will probably see Glass onion again, before deciding if it quite measures up to the original, it’s still a blast from start to finish. One thing’s for sure – no one will walk out of this without wanting to see more Benoit Blanc adventures.


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