Rian Johnson has pulled off the impossible. He’s followed up his wildly successful Knives Out with a second installation that is just as fun, just as clever and just as brilliant as the first.
That almost never happens.
And yet, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is the kind of movie that makes you want to give up your first-born just so you can watch it again. And again and again and again.
It makes you want to examine each element to understand just how Johnson constructed this perfectly formed work of art and entertainment, how he deployed Agatha Christie’s legacy and how he’s building on his own.
Which is not to say that Glass Onion has to be an intellectual exercise – although it does fire up those little gray cells – because it can also just be a joyous film that will slap a grin on your face as you cackle, chortle and guffaw your way through a riotously fun adventure.
It does both and you can hold both experiences in the same hand or you can just sit back and go along for the intoxicating ride.
Following the tradition of Christie’s stories, Glass Onion picks up Daniel Craig’s gentleman detective Benoit Blanc and plonks him and his disarming southern draw in another mystery.
Which means other than Craig, it’s a whole new cast of characters with whom he has to contend, starting with Miles Bron (Edward Norton), a tech billionaire with a lavish private island in Greece. Thousands invites his friends for an extravagant annual reunion getaway and plans to stage a murder mystery party.
Among the assembled are scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr), party girl and former model Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), Connecticut Governor Claire (Kathryn Hahn), men’s rights activist and YouTuber Duke (Dave Bautista), Miles’ former business partner Andi ( Janelle Monae), Birdie’s assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick) and Duke’s girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline).
Deserted on an island and each with a motive against Miles, it’s a cesspool of stewing resentments and long-held secrets. It’s a real stumper for Blanc – and the audience – and there will be loads of revelations, large and small, before the credits roll.
Glass Onion is like the puzzle boxes Miles sends his friends at the start of the film. It’s an immaculately constructed, intricately plotted and perfectly crafted murder mystery where every element is doing exactly what it should, and it’s only at the end you realize how Johnson coyly slid you all the information.
By then, the master storyteller has taken you on a journey, and given you experiences as varied as Blanc’s Monsieur Hulot-esque physical comedy to the film’s many, inspired cameos. There are visual and dialogue gags that will delight and costume choices that invoke ecstatic squeals.
It’s also in direct conversation with the current culture, from high to low – Paris Hilton’s ridiculous fishnet mask makes an appearance, as does tech bros’ cringe philosophies on disruption.
Glass Onion is more than homage, it’s weaponizing a cozy genre that has well-established tropes and evolving it, and it does it without parody. It’s playful and goofy without mockery, and it never takes the audience for fools. It wants you to go along with it, to question everything and to reveal in the denouement.
This is bigger, bolder and brasher than the first Knives Out, and it’s just as exhilarating. Flawless.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is in cinemas from November 23 until November 29, and then on Netflix from December 23