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‘Glass Onion’ Review: A masterclass of a layered whodunnit storytelling

Rian Johnson has done it again, bestowing us with a carefully constructed puzzle that’s nothing short of a masterpiece. After dismantling the dirty secrets of the Thrombey family in Knives Out, the writer-director takes us on a cruise weekend getaway to witness the greatest murder mystery of the year in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.

The opening sequence of Glass Onion almost feels like the beginning of The White Lotus, as the film’s diverse group of passengers arrive at the port. They are invited by the tech mogul Miles Bron (Edward Norton) to a murder mystery party on his remote island. Among the invited friends are politician Claire (Kathryn Hahn), model/influencer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), a gun-loving streamer Duke (Dave Bautista), Mile’s employee Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odon, Jr.), and Cassandra “Andi” Brand (Janelle Monáe), the co-creator of Miles’s tech company. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Knives Out mystery without a surprise invitation for the one and only Southern detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).

The tension builds and continuously rises as the guests reach Miles’s so-called Glass Onion compound – a place built almost entirely of glass, packed with splendor and notes of condensation. Moreover, Miles’s place pays homage to the bar of the same name where the group used to hang out years ago and where the mogul’s empire initially started. Everything comes back to that bar and how Miles’s Elon Musk-level success affected everyone around him. So, it’s no surprise that shortly after this murder mystery party commences, a real murder transpires and everyone is a suspect, including the host. One can say that the film’s title is the leitmotif of this dark comedy as we peel layer after layer, revealing another element of the puzzle or intriguing character development. As the layers slowly but surely come off, the gratifying climax commences as the film’s denouement leads us perfectly to the end.

While this sequel’s predecessor, Knives Out, focuses on one rich family, Glass Onion centers on an extremely wealthy group of friends to further illustrate how dependency on one’s wealth only grows more toxic when more money is involved. That reflects perfectly in Hudson’s character. Birdie – virtually broke, the opponent of anything “woke”, and a fierce disputant – is a woman at Miles’s mercy. Hudson portrays a spoiled, washed-up star outstandingly with a brilliantly hilarious performance. Moreover, Miles, a character ingeniously portrayed by Norton, is the perfect epitome of wealth and satirically represents how far one goes to get even richer. (Sound familiar? If not, look at Twitter.)

GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY (2022) Kate Hudson as Birdie and Edward Norton as Miles. Cr: John Wilson/NETFLIX

The entire cast ups the ante as each character is meticulously written and becomes an integral element that fits into the film’s puzzle. But the true heroine of the film, and a big contributor to its undeniable success, is Janelle Monáe. The actress, known for her work in Moonlight and Hidden Figures, goes above and beyond, especially in pair with Craig’s detective Blanc. The duo is practically unstoppable when attempting to solve this installment’s mystery. There’s no other actor that could bring Benoit Blanc to life as Craig takes the character up a notch to display the detective’s genius with marvelous flair. In addition, the actor’s performance in the second part further explores Blanc’s incredibly gifted mind.

Just like in the case of Knives Out, the script for Glass Onion is ambitious, stimulating, and a perfect satire of the one-percenters. The director again laughs at rich, out-of-touch people and gives his characters very hard lessons and a head-on encounter with a bleak reality by the end. Plus, Johnson presents some fantastic cameos and simultaneously creates a film that’s highly “meme-able”. In one scene, for example, the director utilizes rack focusing, as we see Duke catching his girlfriend cheating. At the same time, Blanc creeps up a few feet away and stalks Duke. The scene is sidesplitting, especially as it’s later referenced again. This moment, as well as other similarly hilarious ones, are already being used in meme form to keep the film’s comedic genius alive.

All in all, Glass Onion is a clever sequel worthy of its predecessor. A solid, hilarious script paired with interesting, colorful characters creates an ambitious flick – one that you’ll want to watch again and again. Everyone will find something to enjoy and come out of it excited for more of Benoit Blanc’s sharp retort and quick-witted sleuthing.

Grade: A

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is now streaming on Netflix.