Knives Out was a huge hit when it came out in 2019. It made $311M at the box office against a $40M budget, something rare for an original IP. It seemed like a sequel was a no-brainer. Thankfully, Daniel Craig and Rian Johnson had the same idea. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is the first of two sequels coming from Netflix and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results. Glass Onion is a bigger, more twisted and in many ways, better film than Knives Out. Now we’ve told you about Strawberry Fields, you know, the place where nothing is real. So let’s go looking through a Glass Onion and talk about this excellent whodunit.
Since we saw Glass Onion at TIFF ’22 prior to its December 2022 release, this will be a spoiler-free review.
Aside from the acting, the plot is the film’s strongest aspect. Billionaire Miles Bron, who’s totally not an Elon Musk parody, invites his rich friends to his private Greek island for a weekend getaway. Benoit Blanc also shows up and that can only mean one thing. Someone turns up dead and it’s up to Blanc to peel back the layers of the metaphorical (and very real) glass onion. Rian Johnson did a remarkable job crafting a plot with many layers, twists, and turns. All in all, it’s far more complex than the first film. Just when you think you’ve figured out the killer, Rian Johnson tells you to throw away your theories (as he did with the Rey theories in The Last Jedi) and does a 180 on you…and then he does it a few more times. I suspected every character as the killer at least once during the movie and that’s due to Johnson’s intricate and competent storytelling abilities. While some people might find it too complex, I think it leans into the themes of the glass onion and the metaphorical layers they need to uncover.
The cast, while maybe not as large as the ensemble in Knives Out, is still excellent. Everyone gets a chance to shine but it was Madelyn Cline, Daniel Craig, and the real MVP of the film, Janelle Monáe who stood out to me. Cline plays a character named Whiskey (yes, that’s actually her name) and her arc in the film is one of the best as she undergoes one of the biggest character changes throughout the film. Craig’s performance as Blanc is so good that it’s almost like he isn’t even acting. He’s also much funnier in Glass Onion than in Knives Out. However, Monáe is the true star here (she got the largest standing ovation other than Craig and Johnson at the Q&A). Without saying much, Monáe manages to give the best performance of the film and absolutely steals every scene she’s in. She’s grim, funny, and nonchalant all at once and I think people will love her character.
The film’s production value is also impressive. With a $40M budget, they stretched it very far. The set designs are super cool, especially Miles’ house and the actual Glass Onion on it. The costumes are also very extravagant and unique. Some of the cooler looks for me were the outfits for YouTube star and men’s right activist Duke (Dave Bautista), washed up fashion model Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), and tech entrepreneur Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe). The film has a very vintage feel to it, and I think it’s perfect for the old-school Agatha Christie vibe the Knives Out franchise is going for. Add to that the gifted cinematography of Steve Yedlin and a wonderful score from returning composer Nathan Johnson, and this movie feels like a high-end theatrical film that cost $100M or more.
Something that I really enjoyed in the film, and have mentioned in this article, was the literal meaning of the title. Sure, Glass Onion may partially be a reference to a supremely underrated Beatles song, but it also has much deeper meaning in the film. Not only do we see an actual Glass Onion in the film, but a Glass Onion of sorts is very important to the story as well. Finally, the obvious is the peeling back of the metaphorical onion layers. Rian Johnson clearly leaned in heavily to this onion-layers idea and without spoiling a single thing, all I can say is that it works on so many levels.
It’s a damn shame this one isn’t getting a theatrical release because Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is exactly what I was hoping to see on the big screen. Not only was it a good follow-up to the excellent Knives Out, but I think it surpasses it in almost every way. Hopefully, in 3 years, we’ll be talking about Knives Out 3 but I think it will be pretty hard to top Glass Onion.