When I heard Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery was going to be released on Nov. 23, I knew I had to watch it as soon as possible. It wasn’t necessarily for the star-studded cast, which includes Daniel Craig, Janelle Monáe, Kate Hudson and honestly so many mini cameos that I lost track as I watched the film. It also wasn’t because of the success of director Rian Johnson’s first Knives Out mystery, Knives Out.
It wasn’t even because of the impressive ratings, including an 8/10 on IMDb and a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, although that certainly sweetened the pot. There was just something about it, something ineffable and quirky, that was apparent from the first trailer. It was clear that this film was unique and that it would stand out amongst blockbuster cliches and revamped plotlines. I was ready to be surprised.
Maybe it was the title that first intrigued me. I mean what even is a glass onion? It confused me, this juxtaposition of unlike words, a mystery and a clue in and of itself of the film to come. Either that or it was a roundabout Shrek metaphor coming back to haunt us. I was open to multiple avenues of interpretation.
In any case, I made the trek to the theaters and was not disappointed. The film centers around the excess of the elite top-one percent. Eccentric billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) sends out invitations to his small circle of “disruptor” (influential and wealthy) friends inviting them to his private Greek island to solve the mystery of his future murder. Detective Benoit Blanc (Craig) steps in when Bron’s innocent murder party ends up in an actual murder.
At first, I was a little surprised by the tone of the film because I walked in expecting a murder mystery, but what I got was a biting satirical commentary on the uber-rich in disguise. These sparks of humor provided moments of levity throughout that I actually really enjoyed, especially in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic during which the film takes place.
It doesn’t just harp on the idle billionaires. The main characters include a prominent senator (Kathryn Hahn), a social media and fashion influencer (Hudson) and a scientist working for Bron (Leslie Odom Jr.) acting hypocritically, selfishly and at times cowardly, which feels refreshing. This commentary also feels self-aware of its own excess as the film piles on countless high-profile actors and pans over high-budget sets.
Another highlight is its witty dialogue. The film just feels smart, like every little quip and retort is meticulously crafted to deliver hidden meanings that will be important later on. The film is also beautiful cinematographically. The colors are vibrant and the camera angles are unique, artistic and purposeful.
The best part of this film by far is its characters. The movie is brilliant not necessarily for its mystery, though that is compelling, but for its study of stereotypes breathed to life by great acting. Monáe, who plays Andi, Bron’s ex-business partner, delivers a performance that is raw, multifaceted and stunningly complex.
Craig’s Benoit Blanc is endearing, charming and sharp, an interesting foil to Norton’s Miles Bron. He’s funny and earnest but also complex, setting moral boundaries for himself that come into question at the end of the film. As an added bonus, it is very fun to listen to James Bond lazily drawl in a slow and bumbling Southern accent.
Hudson’s character is also hilarious, and her doe-eyed, ditzy delivery is amazing. Dave Bautista’s Duke is an entertaining addition to the character list. Especially memorable is the scene in which he reveals a tiny pistol holstered in his equally minuscule leather speedo. I do wish though that Madelyn Cline’s character, Duke’s girlfriend Whiskey, had more character development.
All in all, this film was an entertaining breath of fresh air that was surprisingly insightful regarding the dark crevices of human nature. While this film won’t necessarily keep you guessing, and the murderer is fairly obvious around the halfway mark, it is definitely worth a watch.