“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” solves the case of the perfect sequel
December 10, 2022
In 2019, “Knives Out” was released on Thanksgiving week. The film was a surprise hit and immediately garnered acclaim from audiences and critics alike. It made more than $300 million at the box office, a considerable amount for an adult-geared mystery thriller with a budget of around $40 million.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best original screenplay and became one of the most widely beloved films of the year. Very soon after its success, a sequel was greenlit, and writer/director Rian Johnson began work on “Glass Onion.”
The film takes a unique approach, not functioning as a continuation of the events of the first film, but rather having Benoit Blanc, the ace detective played by Daniel Craig in “Knives Out”, take on another case within the same universe. Aside from Craig, “Glass Onion” features an entirely new cast of seasoned actors, all playing off each other to great effect.
Although some moviegoers have been confused/disappointed in the strange rollout the film is receiving, “Glass Onion” has shifted from the first film in that it’s a Netflix original and is premiering on the streaming service on December 23. The film received a very limited theatrical release, a whole month before its Netflix premiere, again on Thanksgiving week.
This theatrical release was limited to roughly 600 theaters, but still managed to pull around $13 million in its “one week only” release. This theatrical release was partly to qualify the film for awards submissions, as the Academy requires that to be considered for nominations. Many fans of the original film also clamored for the film to be released in theaters, as the nature of the first film played extremely well in a theater setting.
I was able to see this film on release day, November 23, and it undeniably plays best with an audience, which the reaction of in my screening was rapturous. The crowd was laughing along with all the jokes and were completely wrapped up in unraveling the mystery at the center of the film. This strange, highly limited release and the film’s Netflix premiere is a perplexing decision to say the least.
“Glass Onion” is exactly what you want out of a “Knives Out” sequel. It lives up to the tantalizing mystery of the first film, while still being unique and subversive in a new way, which continues to keep the audience guessing, even when we’ve now gotten a taste of what makes up a “Rian Johnson whodunnit.”
While “Glass Onion” undoubtedly raises the stakes in many ways, the most impressive step-up is how Johnson can hide his hand for so much of the runtime. The film is nearly two-and-a-half hours long and it spends a large chunk of it leaving the audience completely in the dark, allowing for the truth to boil to the surface as you attempt to unpeel the layers.
Even in its final moments, Johnson still has tricks up his sleeve, waiting patiently to let everyone in on the mystery, making it one of the most fun viewing experiences I’ve had in a theater this year.
The cast is just as sharp and precise as Johnson’s script, giving perfectly pulpy performances that look just as fun to play as they are to watch. Daniel Craig continues to nail his performance as Benoit Blanc, who is quickly becoming one of cinema’s most fun and charming on-screen detectives.
Everyone involved gives devilishly deceiving performances, but former wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista is undoubtedly the film’s standout. In arguably his best performance to date, he plays the perfectly hateable Duke Cody, a hyper conservative live streamer preaching “men’s rights” and “self-wellness.” His satire on modern masculine influencers is perfectly biting and hilarious from start to finish, thanks to Bautista’s sheer commitment.
“Glass Onion”, like the first film, is equal parts social and political satire and murder mystery. The film takes place in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the core plot itself parodying the absurd news story that circulated during the pandemic, when Kim Kardashian flew her friends and family to a private island to party while the rest of the world was still deeply entrenched in quarantines and lockdowns.
Johnson holds no punches, with each of the main cast serving to critique hilariously unique and absurd aspects of our culture. It continues in its attack on the entitled one percent and the complete lack of self-awareness that most of the hyper-famous and hyper-rich are known for in the social media world.
Although the commentary never feels too indulgent or self-serious, never getting in the way of the core mystery at the center, “Glass Onion” is a symphony of many pieces, working together to create a film that is just as satisfyingly complex as it is downright simple on the surface. You can choose to watch (and rewatch) the film trying to dig into all the little details peppered throughout, or you can sit back and enjoy another whodunnit that’s sure to surprise any audience member, regardless of preconceptions.
It seems that Johnson will continue to stay busy doing what he does best, as a third film in the series has already been confirmed, as well as a new series “Poker Face” premiering on Peacock in January. The series is another mystery-comedy-drama directed and written by Johnson.
While sadly, many will have to wait for the film to release on Netflix later this month to dig into another “Knives Out Mystery,” I can easily recommend everyone to throw it on this holiday season, as it’s one the year’s most entertaining films.
Staff reporter Zaden Dennis can be reached at [email protected] and you can find his other reviews at letterboxd.com/Zadenator.
Tags: Glass Onion, Knives Out, Netflix, Rian Johnson, Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Dave Bautista, Daily Egyptian, Zaden Dennis