28th November 2022
Words: Christopher Richmond
Glass Onion sees the return of Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, world-renowned detective and apparent homosexual, this time invited to solve a mystery on a luxury island getaway inhabited by a tech billionaire and his equally as chaotic friends. The first Knives Out was a refreshing surprise back in 2019, reestablishing the murder-mystery genre as a legitimate box office draw and featuring an excellent supporting ensemble each of whom was having as much fun as the last. The beauty of having a Poirot-like detective as the film’s protagonist is that each new tale can be separate from the last, the cast of A-Listers who surround Craig’s hero continually revolving with each new installation. The sequel captures the unbridled magic of the first, except this time Craig is no longer an independent bystander observing the mystery from afar, but a key player in the unraveling game. He’s placed in the centre of the action, allowing Craig to have even more fun with the campy, eccentric role than the last outing. It’s a complete joy to see Craig unwind in a role as ludicrous as this, because he could have feasibly spent the rest of his post-Bond career starring in Guy Ritchie gangster movies or knock-off spy thrillers. The fact that he’s chosen to commit so fully to Benoit Blanc speaks wonders to his taste and to his fearlessness as an actor - there’s a good chance his Blanc will be just as esteemed in his legacy as his Bond.
As with the first, Craig is surrounded by a gaggle of unruly supporting cast members, each of whom have committed to the bit with just as much enthusiasm as their leader. It’s Kate Hudson’s best role in years, arguably her most accomplished since her Oscar-nominated turn in Almost Famous, her hysterical one-liners capturing the insane hilarity of being a washed-up celebrity in the modern world, whilst Edward Norton is compelling as Miles Bron, the idiotic central tech billionaire around which the plot revolves. The large cast don’t all have a chance to shine however: after a bewitching turn in Wandavision, Kathryn Hahn’s Claire doesn’t quite live up to her comedic talents, and Jessica Henwick’s Peg feels inessential to the plot. But the star of the show is indisputably Janelle Monae. It’s impossible to describe the complexity of her character without entering spoiler territory, so let’s just say this: she fucking kills it.
The first Knives Out disrupted the murder-mystery genre entirely, distorting expectations and tropes to create an entirely original tackling of a tried and tested formula. Glass Onion begins in a straightforward way, and for a moment it appears as though, unlike the first, this could just be a simple, off-the-shelf tale of deception and deceit. The archetypes begin to form, and the direction that the story pushes toward seems to solidify. You might even be tempted to predict what happens next, but don’t bother: the rug is pulled from beneath us after the first act, and from there the twists and turns come thick and fast, taking us on one of the most breathless rollercoaster rides of the year. Despite the false sense of security that the opening suggests, Glass Onion is just as disruptive as it’s predecessor, the stereotypes flipped on their heads and the expectations thrown out the window. It’s deliriously fun.
Rian Johnson, the mastermind director and screenwriter behind the original, returns to the steering wheel with an equally as tightly constructed plot as the first. It’s meticulously crafted, with clues and hints flashing on the screen throughout that seem irrelevant but which eventually reveal themselves to hold the secrets of the mystery. It would’ve been sensible to assume that Knives Out was a lightning-in-a-bottle moment, a collision of irreplaceable collective parts that could never be emulated successfully in a sequel - but these fears are unfounded. Glass Onion is just as captivating as the first, and most importantly, just as fun. It’s a raucous carnival of a film, and it solidifies the winning duo of Craig and Johnson as one of the most innovative of their time. As the credits role, one thing is clear: we simply have to have a third.