As one would hope, Glass Onion opens with a fantastic Agatha Christie level hook and setup. A host of disparate connections throughout the world of politics, science, fashion and activism receive multiple mysterious packages from a reclusive billionaire friend, Miles Bron [Norton]. The package itself unfolding like a Hellraiser style lament configuration puzzle box, ending with an invitation to join Miles on a secluded Greek island for a murder mystery weekend – where he will allegedly be assassinated. All the intrigue of which, is beautifully undercut when Janelle Monáe’s character refuses to participate in the charade and destructively takes a hammer to the carefully assembled device, to get to the message inside. All while sinister strings slide over the top. Meanwhile, we are reintroduced to famed detective Benoit Blanc [Craig]. Who is presented as a Holmesian figure, sat in the bath, playing games, irked that his mind isn’t being adequately challenged. Yet, he too receives a box. And with this, the game is afoot.
It should come as little surprise that this movie is, much like the aforementioned puzzle box, masterfully crafted. Shot with Johnson’s beautiful precision and flare, infused with a gorgeous, subtle score elevated with grand, sweeping motifs, and built with a production design engineered to feed the audience subtle visual clues. Spoiler-free examples including the glass statues in Bron’s main hall representing other famous murder mysteries and Monáe always being framed and shot like with the unknowable smile and watchful eyes of the Mona Lisa.
The writing, too, is brilliant. Doling out a constant stream of fascinating breadcrumbs, setup and misdirection, without being overwhelming because the host of oddball eccentric characters are simply too compelling. And speaking of the cast, everyone is as on point as those in Knives Out. Johnson has been given access to the Hollywood toybox and can seemingly draft anyone to play in his razor-sharply written, celebrity fantasy world. As such, we’re treated to superb talent and wonderful cameos that flesh out the world building. No casting is minor or a mistake.
For example, if we take the way in which the character Whiskey [Cline] has been penned. She is initially dismissed as a bimbo (both from the perspective of the characters, as well as the audience), a trophy girlfriend of an obnoxious right wing agitator. Before you realise she’s more complicated than what is first presented. Her ambitions, eyes on a future in politics, even simple things such as using words like expeditious – her inclusion is merely another clue set in plain sight. An attempt by Johnson to both appeal to the movie-watching masses, as much as the sleuths in the audience.
To echo myself from four years ago, the thing with Knives Out is that it wasn’t necessarily the best murder mystery story, but it was a very fun return to a long absent genre. Glass Onion is another such fine outing. But unlike Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot adaptations, these films are new mysteries, which double as a reflection of modern society. Making a satirical commentary on wealth and power, and injecting it with a healthy dose of billionaire culture and influencer roasting. One defining aspect of this century thus far has been the worship of self proclaimed billionaire geniuses, who turn out to be moronic, petty children, who end up destroying their own empires.
**mild spoilers in this paragraph**
Earlier I stated that no casting was minor or a mistake. And while that’s technically true, the only downside is the underutilisation of Jessica Henwick. Her character ended up being a little flat and superfluous. To the degree that, outside of Miles’ dismissal of Peg and Birdie’s various tantrums, she plays no real impactful role. And in a film so meticulously crafted, her presence feels vestigial. On top of that, pursuing the ‘obvious’ route, does leave the film ever so slightly thin. Not necessarily unsatisfactory, but for those looking for a devilishly constructed affair, they may be a touch disappointed.
To summate, Johnson has pulled ahead in a fairly stacked horse race. Sure, we’re starting to see a couple of similar tales doing the rounds (See How They Run in particular leaps to mind) but none with the passion and flash that Johnson commands. But, regardless of this, Glass Onion is a great time. A solid feature to put on with the whole family to get the brain in motion, to see hypotheses dashed and to laugh and reel in equal measure.
23 December 2022
The Scene To Look Out For:
**mild spoilers in this paragraph too**
More a recurring callback than a specific scene but establishing the notion that Blanc’s Achilles’ heel is Clue/Cluedo, largely for his ability to overcomplicate the simple and his disdain for dumb conclusions is fantastic. As with the first film, the real mystery is who actually invited Blanc, which is tabled until the film’s narrative changes gear at the exact halfway point. And from the title to the dialogue, everything about this movie is screaming at you to draw the most obvious conclusion. Because those we laud with praise and herald as geniuses and disruptors, very often end up revealing themselves to be little more than selfish morons the entire time.
**mild spoilers in this paragraph as well**
Unbelievably, in a sprawling cast of fantastic performances, I’m left highlighting the same actor as I did in my 2019 review for Knives Out. On the island, we are told there are no other people, no staff, no unknown presence. Except Derol. Who’s Derol? In the words of the film, he’s just a guy on the island, going through some stuff, pretend he’s not there. The character, played by Johnson-regular Noah Segan occasionally pops up only to say, “I’m not here, ignore me.” And for all the constant Derol misdirects, it transpires they were literally just that.
“I don’t need puzzles or games and the last thing I need is a vacation. I need danger, the hunt, a challenge. I need a great case.”
In A Few Words:
“Twisty, fun, compelling, everything you want in a murder mystery.”
Total Score: 5/5