Rian Johnson is a man who has the perfect answer for his critics. After he was slated for making the second in the new Star Wars trilogy, The Last Jedi, Johnson made Knives Out, an old-fashioned whodunnit with a delicious cast and a lead character who could easily be called the new Hercules Poirot. The film was an almighty success. So much so that Netflix bought the rights to two more films in the series for an incredible amount of money. Now, three years after the first film, Johnson and his detective, Benoit Blanc, are back for a second serving of twists and double twists in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Like the first film, this is a thoroughly entertaining slice of murder and mystery that will have you guessing till the final act.
Miles Bron, a wealthy entrepreneur, has invited his friends for a few days to his luxury island for a murder mystery in which he is the victim. Among those attending is Benoit Blanc, the world-famous detective, even though he wasn’t sent an official invitation. What starts as a game soon becomes real when one of the guests is murdered. What makes the whole thing even more strange is that everyone invited may have had a motive for killing Bron, yet he is not the victim. So it’s up to Blanc to solve the crime.
Johnson’s new film has the same twisting plot that made Knives Out a success. Obviously, with money behind the project, he is allowed to up the stakes, so instead of a creeky old house, we are on a plush island resort with a vast, modern mansion with a giant glass onion as an observation room-cum-office. We get beautiful, lush scenery and plenty of sun and sea. Johnson took inspiration from Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun and The Last of Shelia, a whodunnit written by musical genius Stephen Sondheim, who makes a brief cameo in a Zoom meeting along with Angela Lansbury.
Turning up at this party is a shock for Bron but soon feels he could get bragging rights for having Blanc along for the ride until, in one of the funniest scenes, Blanc solves the murder before the game begins. Johnson seems to relish delivering a cast of one-dimensional characters and allowing his starry cast to flesh them out. All have reasons to kill Bron, particularly Andi Brand, a former business partner who took Bron to court and lost over an idea she developed. We also have a fashion icon who Bron is blackmailing, a governor who needs Bron for support to be re-elected, and a scientist who is against Bron’s idea for new fuel that hasn’t been tested.
Complications in place and off we go for two hours of head-scratching and puzzle-solving, in which every inch of information delivered could be a clue. The joy of this film is that Johnson literally tells you everything if you are really paying attention. Even if you think you know, you probably don’t, as the story shifts from one clue to another, while characters turn out to hold secrets and have plots and plans, all against the one man who thinks are his friends. Only when we get to the final act, do all the pieces fall into place. Having said that, while Knives Out was clever with who actually committed the crime, it feels a little too obvious this time, even though it is still a surprise.
As with the first film, Johnson gets together a delectable collection of actors to play his creations; all seem to be having the time of their lives. Dave Bautista is a blast as the muscle-bound Duke, a man who carries a gun in his Speedos and is testosterone on legs. Kate Hudson is having fun playing the lavish fashion icon Birdy and Kathryn Hahn is always good value as Clare, the governor. Edward Norton shows a lighter side as Miles Bron, the man who thinks he can outsmart everyone, including the great detective. Returning to his role of Benoit Blanc is Daniel Craig, who has created a wonderfully complex character who is more accessible than Poirot and who has found a new franchise after leaving Bond. The real stand-out, however, is Janelle Monae as Andi. Without giving anything away, she should be offered far more after this.
If there is any criticism of the film, it’s a tad too long, and some characters are given little to do. Having said that, there are some very neat cameos and the film keeps the interest throughout. It’s got some terrific set pieces and some equally neat jokes. All round, this is pure entertainment that should keep even the most undemanding audience member happy. Sad that it’s only in cinemas for a week, as this film deserved to be a shared experience.
4 out of 5
Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Janelle Monae, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline
Written by: Rian Johnson
Running Time: 140 mins
Release date: 23rd November 2022 (Netflix: 23rd December 2022)