Thursday, December 29, 2022

"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery": one-paragraph review

Detective Benoit Blanc is back in 2022's "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery," again written and directed by Rian Johnson. The movie stars an ensemble of mostly famous names: Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, and Dave Bautista. Offbeat billionaire Miles Bron (Norton, parodying a very dumbed-down Elon Musk) invites his closest friends to a private island off the coast of Greece for what has been billed as a few days of fun and relaxation. These friends are all "disruptors" in some way, but in reality, they are all also indebted to Bron, who has done them all favors. Aging fashion designer Birdie Jay (Hudson), state governor Claire Debella (Hahn), chemist Lionel Toussaint (Odom), pistol-toting men's-rights talking head Duke Cody (Bautista) and his girlfriend Whisky (Cline) are the inner circle of invited friends. Also arriving at the island are Helen Brand (Monáe) and detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, more comfortable in the role this time). The invitees have also been told that they would have to solve the mystery of Miles's "death" (he's supposed to be murdered by crossbow at dinner) but Benoit Blanc does this easily, spoiling a ton of work done by Bron's hired crew of mystery writers and set designers. The real mystery begins when one member of the group is poisoned,* and Blanc suddenly has to figure out what's truly going on. The plot involves a new type of hydrogen fuel that isn't quite ready for public use as well as various people's motives for killing other people. The movie is somewhat exposition-heavy, but the story moves along at a sprightly pace. Many elements of the mystery are revealed in flashbacks, and while I didn't predict who the baddest bad guy was in the end (hint: just follow the movie's racial politics; I thought that would be one expectation that Rian Johnson would subvert, but no), the movie was acted well. Daniel Craig seems to be having a lot more fun in this film than in the first one, and Janelle Monáe is a standout. There are two schools of thought when it comes to mysteries, I think: (1) the Arthur Conan Doyle school and (2) the Agatha Christie school. Christie's mysteries weave clues into the narrative so that a reader can figure out the mystery for himself before the story ends; Doyle's Sherlock, meanwhile, is often called a formidable intellect, but we don't understand the mystery until his exposition at the end of the tale: Doyle spoon-feeds the mystery to the reader, not allowing us to do the work of deduction. Sadly, "Glass Onion" (a symbol and metaphor working on several levels) is more of the Doyle school than the Christie one: the audience cannot solve the mystery without flashbacks in which new angles and points of view are provided. Some conservative critics warned that the movie contains "woke" elements; I saw some (like the aforementioned racial politics), but I also saw leftie attitudes being parodied, too. Overall, this is a fun film, better paced, more lively, and less preachy than the first, although the ending reminds me of a bombastic action movie's finale. It runs long at two hours and twenty minutes, but "Glass Onion" is thoroughly entertaining.


*Technically, the death is due to anaphylactic shock after a very bad reaction to a drink, but this was not accidental.


  1. How did I miss this earlier. I, too, watched "Glass Onion." I have a slightly different take. I found that it wasn't well paced. The exposition, while essential to the plot, did seem tedious to me. Perhaps it is because I found myself disliking pretty much every character (except Blanc and Brand). If it wasn't that I disliked the characters it was that I just thought that all the common murder mystery tropes seemed to be checked off. There was misdirection, twins (I particularly hate the whole twin thing), flashbacks, the whole formula seemed a little tired to me at some level. That said, the movie was very well acted. The direction was good. I think it could have benefited from another writer/editor. I didn't feel that my time was wasted by watching it, but I'll never give it another thought or viewing.



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