By Josh Reilly B.
Five years ago next month, Star Wars’ sequel trilogy continued with its middle chapter, The Last Jedi. It’s a film that has become notorious for the intense debate it sparked, but it also helped to push the career of writer-director Rian Johnson forward and to new heights.
Johnson went on to do Knives Out, a whodunnit murder mystery, and now Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. This sequel again features Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc, a southern investigator with a heavy accent and a fondness for the spectacular and spectacle of a mystery case to solve. This is much like the Agatha Christie novels that Johnson was inspired by for this new film, with the lead investigator carrying over to each new story. In 2017, Johnson proved that he could make a thoughtful, compelling and deeply emotional blockbuster film. Now, with Glass Onion, he’s showing his excellent abilities as a filmmaker once again. It appears as if he’s going from strength to strength with each passing film.
Glass Onion follows Detective Blanc as he travels to a remote, isolated island around two hours off the coast of Greece. Invited by wealthy businessmen Miles Bron (Edward Norton), Craig is seemingly tasked with solving the murder of Bron by the man himself. However, not everything is as it seems, and secrets are uncovered about all of the supporting characters. Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe), Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Peg (Jessica Henwick) all seem to have the motive and placement to commit a crime. Without spoilers, the mystery unravels in a novel and unique way that does justice to these characters and the whodunnit genre.
The biggest strength of Glass Onion, by far, is the screenplay. Johnson’s writing is arguably the best it’s ever been here as seemingly every line of dialogue and minuet detail is important and means something later on. Johnson brought a personal touch and perspective to The Last Jedi and followed that up with a novel mystery with Knives Out, but certainly outdoes the first film here. It’s not necessarily bigger (the cast is again full of A-list stars but perhaps not quite with the same star power as the first), but it’s certainly better.
One of the only areas for improvement in the first Knives Out was the relative predictability of the mystery. Chris Evans’ character was the most suspicious of the ensemble from the very beginning and, despite the attempts to lead the audience away from Ransom, the conclusion that he was behind his grandfather’s death wasn’t as satisfying as the rest of the film. Again, without spoilers, the ending of Glass Onion is bound to be a more thrilling and surprising resolution.
Rian Johnson’s extreme attention to detail with the writing of Glass Onion is also sure to make audiences want to go back and watch the film again. Knives Out had great replay value, particularly for a murder mystery (not exactly the most rewatchable of genres), but Glass Onion trumps the first in that regard as well.
Glass Onion serves as a showcase for the tremendous abilities of Rian Johnson as a writer, and it also does the same for Janelle Monáe as an actor. Monáe plays a similar role to Ana de Armas’ lead character from the first film; the person closest to Benoit Blanc and serves as his Watson at times. Monáe is the link between Blanc and the cast of potential suspects and does so tremendously well. Her chemistry with Daniel Craig is great as well as the two play off of each other throughout. As the film goes on, a real bond forms between Blanc and Andi Brand in a way that is emotionally touching and resonant. Craig also excels in this film, proving once again that he can deliver big, grand moments of suspense and humor while also adding an emotional and personal side to the character.
Particular praise must also go to the set design of Glass Onion. The film is almost exclusively set on Miles Bron’s private island, but the visuals are absolutely stunning throughout. It perfectly captures the grand sense of society’s richest and most privileged individuals, thus adding to the overall story, but also making the film extremely visually appealing and engaging.
Glass Onion is a near perfect follow up to the original, delivering an incredibly gripping mystery. The screenplay is expertly penned by Rian Johnson, whose writing just seems to be getting better and better. The attention to detail and depth of the characters is stunning, particularly as all the characters feel fully fleshed out without the film itself ever feeling as if it’s staying beyond its welcome. As the best Netflix original film to date, Glass Onion is truly a must watch.