Review by Dan Skip Allen
Glass Onion is the newest entry in the Knives Out universe that Rian Johnson has set up. There will be at least one more film after this one in the universe. This time, the film is a Netflix production and once again written/directed by Rian Johnson. Instead of a New England house, it's set on an island off the coast of Greece, but again, we follow Daniel Craig as the Kentucky fried detective Benoit Blanc.
Even though the setting of the film is on an island off the coast of Greece, it starts with a handful of characters who get an invitation to go to this island in the form of a mystery box, which takes some figuring out by this handful of characters including Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), and Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.). Once they get to the island, they realize they have been invited to solve the murder of their friend, tech inventor Miles Bron (Edward Norton). The problem is Blanc is there as well, and Norton's character doesn't know how he got an invitation to the murder mystery party.
Glass Onion is the title of the film, but it has a more significant meaning in the context of the movie. It is a building that is created by Norton's character. It plays a big part in the story in a very rewarding way. Like an onion, this story has many layers, and as it unfolds, more and more of the story is uncovered. This is a perfect metaphor for this film. And murder mysteries as a whole. It was a very thought-out title and a way to explain the depth and layers of this story. Johnson deserves a lot of credit for that.
He also deserves credit for the performances he got out of his actors. Even though the dialogue was very dense and layered, it was delivered equally with a great sense of humor and a serious tone. There is a lot of inside baseball information regarding the friendship between these people. That all needed a lot of explaining, so it took the brunt of the first act. The rest of the movie deals with the mystery of how this is acted out and explained by Blanc. It's pretty funny how he gets to his conclusion.
A character familiar to the group from their past is Andi Brand (Jenelle Monae). She was intimately connected to Norton's character. It was just a surprise she showed up for their annual summer gathering. They wonder what her motivations for being there are, and they are a little suspicious of her arrival on this beautiful island. Her connection to Norton's character isn't in question, though. Craig's Blanc is a little more involved than anyone knows. His being on the island isn't a coincidence. Monae is fantastic as this woman with a secret, and her secret is the key to the whole story and film. It's brilliantly executed by everybody, including her and Craig.
There is an aspect of this movie that is like winking at the audience watching it, Where the viewer knows it's a wild scenario, but we still want to know what is actually going on and what happened in the end. In a way, it's making fun of murder mysteries, whereas Knives Out seemed more of a genuine murder mystery. There is a tongue-in-cheek concept going on. And the actors play along very well but also seem to be in on the joke.
The craft of this movie is top-notch. The camera work looks phenomenal, having seen the film on the big screen. That's a plus. Though a little comical, the performances are pretty good, except for Jenelle Monae and Daniel Craig, who are great. The writing and direction are very good, with the camera work as a strength overall. This is a worthy successor to Knives Out, and this world of Benoit Blanc is growing little by little.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery hits theaters on November 22 and streams on Netflix beginning December 21.