‘Glass Onion’: The bigger, bolder ‘Knives Out’ sequel is a must-see film

Assistant Arts Editor Nate Hall (above) at the "Glass Onion" (2022) premiere with cast members Janelle Monáe (bottom left), Kate Hudson (bottom middle) and Kathryn Hahn (bottom right) is pictured. Courtesy Nate Hall / The Tufts Daily
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The Tufts Daily had the privilege of attending the U.S. premiere of “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (2022) last week at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. After walking the red carpet and meeting some of the film’s cast and crew, the audience sat down to watch the film, a sequel to Rian Johnson’s hit murder mystery “Knives Out” (2019). After the success of the first installment, Netflix acquired the rights to two “Knives Out” sequels in a $450 million deal last year. In a rare move from Netflix, the film will have a one-week limited release in theaters nationwide starting Nov. 23 before it drops on the streaming platform on Dec. 23.

From the very beginning of the film, Johnson makes it clear that “Glass Onion” will be quite different from its predecessor. The movie takes place in the spring of 2020, soon after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. When we first see detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), he’s taking a bath while on a Zoom call with friends, desperate to take another case. “Glass Onion” trades the first film’s cozy Massachusetts mansion for a sunny private island off the coast of Greece owned by tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton). The story begins when Miles, tired of pandemic isolation, invites his closest friends to a weekend getaway at his island home — known affectionately as the “Glass Onion” — where he plans to host the murder mystery party of a lifetime. 

Bron’s inner circle of “disruptors” includes Connecticut governor Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), fashion designer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), YouTube star Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) and his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline) as well as Miles’ former business partner Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe). Somehow, Benoit Blanc gets invited too — and he’s forced to investigate when Miles’ killer party turns into a real murder mystery.

Craig gives another memorable performance as Benoit Blanc, the master detective whose southern drawl and geniality make him instantly likable. Fully in command of his surroundings in the first film, we now see a different side of Blanc — an outsider who doesn’t fit in with Miles’ rich posse. As Miles Bron, the owner of tech giant Alpha, Norton goes above and beyond in his performance. Although clearly inspired by real-life billionaires like Elon Musk, his character takes on a life of his own. Miles wants the world to see him as an ultra-powerful leader, but as we get a look behind the scenes of his operation, the cracks start to show. Bron is fully in control of everything around him — until he’s not.

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Once again, Johnson has assembled a top-tier cast — every member of the ensemble puts their all into their character. Some of the best performances come from Hahn, who plays a rising political star, and Bautista, who plays a gun-toting right-wing influencer. Hudson, too, deserves to be singled out for her hilariously out-of-touch Birdie Jay, a washed-up supermodel who’s constantly mired in scandals. But perhaps the biggest talent is multi-hyphenate Janelle Monáe, who gives a powerhouse performance as Andi Brand, Miles’ disgraced former business partner. Shunned from the friend group after she left Miles’ company, Andi is the only person who sees through Miles’ facade.

Inspired by the works of Agatha Christie, director and writer Rian Johnson draws on classic murder mystery tropes in “Glass Onion” but makes a story that feels timely and original. Set at the beginning of the pandemic when much of the world struggled to stay connected, it’s the connections between the film’s characters that bring them closer together — or drive them apart. The movie is funnier and twistier than “Knives Out,” and its script rewards the attentive viewer with one-liners and subtle running jokes that tie the film’s loose ends together. The story is complex and constantly evolving as Blanc peels back the layers of the Glass Onion to discover the truth behind Miles and his friends. It might feel like things are moving too fast at times, but that’s all part of the fun.

Unlike “Knives Out,” “Glass Onion” takes its time with exposition, giving viewers plenty of details about its characters before diving into the mystery. If you’re eager to find out who gets killed, you’ll have to be patient. And beneath the playful humor and twisty plot is a sharp social commentary on the corrupting power of wealth. Miles’ circle started out as a regular group of friends, but now that he’s rich and powerful, each person is indebted to him for one reason or another.

There’s never a dull moment in the film, with plenty of easter eggs and cameos that make the film a little more exciting. The movie is visually stunning, with stylish costumes and an incredibly detailed production design that matches the luxury of Miles’ extravagant island home (and may even provide some hints to the film’s ending). Composer Nathan Johnson returns with gorgeous music, which expands on the orchestral sound of the first film to create a bigger, more elegant score. 

“Glass Onion” pulls out all the stops with its conclusion, which fully commits to the story’s absurdity and keeps surprising viewers with twists until the very end. The film is a joy to watch from start to finish, becoming one of the rare sequels that lives up to the success of its predecessor. A third installment is already in the works; there’s no telling where Benoit Blanc will end up next, but it’s sure to be a good time.

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Summary

“Glass Onion” is the rare sequel that lives up to the original’s success with a well-crafted murder mystery, a joke-filled script, and outstanding performances from Daniel Craig, Edward Norton and Janelle Monáe.

5 stars
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