Film

Glass Onion review: Less intricate than Knives Out but way more fun

Glass Onion is a whodunnit that knows what it is: a lighthearted, star-packed love letter to a genre that felt dormant for far too long. 

Glass Onion

Glass Onion. Image: Netflix

It was mere months before the first lockdown that audiences flocked to cinemas to watch national treasure Daniel Craig try his hand at the consulting detective archetype in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out. The star-studded murder mystery saw the inception of Benoit Blanc, a witty investigator with a dramatically underlined Southern accent described by Chris Evans’s character in the 2019 film as a “Kentucky-fried Foghorn Leghorn drawl.” The accent played a major part in distancing the British actor from the overpowering shadow of James Bond, a role he had already announced he was set to step away from. 

For Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Craig reprises his role as Benoir, headlining yet another A-lister cast. Edward Norton is Miles, a tech tycoon with a messiah complex who gathers his small group of best friends for a lavish vacation at an equally lavish location once a year. This time, the group is invited to the billionaire’s private island in Greece, where they are all to partake in an intricately planned murder mystery game — Miles’ pretend corpse at the centre of the charade.  

The group is a diverse bunch straight out of Gen Z Cluedo: Claire (Kathryn Hahn) is a soccer mom turned politician; Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.) is a brilliantly minded scientist and Miles’ head lackey; Duke (Dave Bautista) is a Twitch streamer piling up millions of views thanks to the ever-online incels who praise his brainless misogynistic spew; Birdie (Kate Hudson) is a washed-up pop-star-slash-sweatpants-ambassador who packages hate speech as “telling it like it is”; and, finally, Andy (Janelle Monáe) is Miles’ very own Eduardo Saverin [the Brazilian billionaire entrepreneur and less famous Facebook co-founder].

Despite being the mind behind the mogul’s billionaire empire, Andy was legally cut from the company in a ruthless move that saw her ostracised not only from the business she dedicated her life to but from the friends she believed placed her higher than the shiny golden hues of cash (“He ‘Social Network’d her’”, observes Lionel).

Joining this eclectic bunch is Blanc himself, who mysteriously receives an invitation to this highly private rendezvous for reasons that will be peeled layer by layer by Johnson in a nod to the film’s quirky title, a direct reference to the name of the bar where the group of friends met before fame and success. It is a cleverly built set-up, a pressure cooker rapidly brewing conflicts around privilege and ethics that become heightened as the group is placed in an isolated arena that highlights the true nature of their bond. And what an arena this is. A mansion straight out of Architectural Digest with a literal glass onion placed like a cherry on top of the Greek hill, the property and its many winding paths is the ideal setting for this luxury game of cat and mouse. 

The script, written by Johnson, is an amalgamation of attentively placed crumbs and sharp-witted one-liners that not only mark the beats of this satire but also help delineate the over-the-top nature of the characters. “You have a Google alert for the word movie?”, a puzzled Lionel asks Duke, who replies in a heartbeat, “I like movies”.  The two satellite characters — a girlfriend and an assistant — work as pawns in this game of whodunnit that feels less intricate than its predecessor, albeit way more fun. The film knows what it is, a lighthearted, star-packed love letter to a genre that was dormant for far too long. 

In this balance, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery proves a great time. Yes, the twists are slightly less polished this time around, but it matters little when you have a deliciously unhinged Kate Hudson screaming “What is reality!” at the top of her lungs while wearing a gorgeous multicolour gown. To top it all, the always wonderful Janelle Monáe delivers one of her greatest performances in a role that allows her to waltz between drama and comedy with the added benefit of a faultlessly mastered accent, good enough to overshadow Blanc’s. Throw in a feast of costume and set design that sees the discrete elegance of linen juxtaposed with the tacky nature of crystal and you have the perfect recipe for good old entertainment.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is in select UK cinemas from November 23 for one week, before its release on Netflix on December 23

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