Movie Review: Glass Onion
Plot: A few months into the Covid-19 pandemic, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) wallows at home desperately craving a new mystery to solve. When a peculiar box arrives, Blanc is invited to spend a long weekend on the private Greek island of tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Bron has gathered his closest acquaintances Governor Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), model and fashion designer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), men’s rights activist and YouTuber Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), and surprisingly, Andi Brand (Janelle Monae) Bron’s ex-business partner, for a murder mystery weekend. However, when an actual murder wreaks chaos on the group, suddenly everyone is a suspect and it’s up to the world’s greatest detective to solve the mystery before sunrise.
Review: I must admit, this is one of those situations where I need to tread very lightly because Glass Onion is obviously a mystery movie. So please understand this review will be light on plot details because I don’t wish to spoil the fun. Indeed, my advice to all people planning to see Glass Onion is to go in as cold as possible. I know that’s difficult in the age of social media but trust me it’s worth it. Half the fun of Glass Onion relies on methodically peeling back the layers.
In 2019 writer/director Rian Johnson presented the world with Knives Out, arguably the best pure movie mystery since 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express. A triumphant whodunit that also delivered strong social commentary and one of the more fascinating onscreen characters in Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, a sequel was inevitable. Despite making the transition to Netflix, Glass Onion loses nothing of the charm or intrigue of the first film. Indeed, I found myself struggling with the notion that while Glass Onion isn’t better than Knives Out, it may be just as good.
Once again Rian Johnson delivers a scintillating script that is nothing short of sublime. I am in awe at how complex yet accessible this story is. All great mysteries (despite what Ben Shapiro thinks) involve misdirection and Glass Onion is no different. Not only did Johnson’s film keep me guessing until the closing minutes, but there’s a mid-film course change that completely upends the entire movie for the better. As with Knives Out, Glass Onion wears its social commentary on its sleeve. It skewers influencer culture and our reverence of supposed billionaire geniuses. Yet it never feels pedantic and often utilizes humor to make a point. Furthermore, Johnson’s dialogue is just electric. The lines “It’s a dangerous thing to mistake speaking without thought for speaking the truth” and “If I ever meet Jared Leto, I’m going to whoop his Kombucha brewing ass” will live rent-free in my head for months for completely different reasons.
As with Knives Out, Glass Onion sports a phenomenal ensemble cast where everyone gets a chance to shine. Edward Norton kills it as billionaire buffoon Miles Bron. There’s literally a scene where he’s dressed as Tom Cruise’s Frank TJ Mackey from Magnolia. The Internet doesn’t contain enough chef’s kiss GIFs to compliment how pitch-perfect that choice was.
Although everyone contributes in a meaningful way, the standouts for me (aside from Janelle Monae who I’ll get to in a moment) were Dave Bautista’s Duke and Kate Hudson’s Birdie. While outwardly a misogynistic click-hungry Twitch and YouTube streamer, Bautista brings human desperation to Duke’s character. Yes, he’s a jackass and a moron but he’s also someone desperate for real human affection, something he fruitlessly tries to attain online. I continue to be impressed with every career choice Bautista makes. With the asinine “nepo baby” discourse once again rearing its ugly head in Hollywood, it behooves me to note what a true talent Kate Hudson is, regardless of her parentage. Her Birdie is delightfully vapid, carelessly willing to have penthouse parties in the middle of the pandemic, a character who needs to have her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick) keep her phone lest she tweet an ethnic slur—again.
Meanwhile, there’s Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc who’s even more brilliant, endearing, and charismatic than ever. Craig will always be associated with James Bond but goddamn if it isn’t a close thing with Blanc. Whether it’s the over-the-top accent that sounds like a mint julip set to music or a wardrobe that would make Tim Gunn stand up and take notice, you can’t help but love this character. Watching Craig’s Blanc dissect the intricacies of this mystery is like watching Michael Jordan in the NBA Finals or Doyle Brunson in the World Series of Poker. You get the sense that you’re watching a master at work
And then there’s Janelle Monae. Captivating doesn’t begin to cover it. Sleek, stylish, intelligent, and superbly confident, her Andi proves just as ultimately formidable as Ana de Armas’s Marta was in Knives Out. She also seems to be one of the few characters with a strong moral fiber. On an island that’s full of Miles Bron sycophants, Andi is the only one willing to speak the truth other than Benoit Blanc. Monae’s Andi can eviscerate you with a single glance and look drop-dead gorgeous while doing it. Andi is just as memorable as she is mesmerizing.
As with Knives Out, Glass Onion is just a beautiful film to look at. Steve Yedlin delivers some excellent cinematography complemented by a suspenseful, playful, and even Bond-like score from Nathan Johnson. Yet what impressed me the most was how every shot, every frame, felt in service to the story. It sounds axiomatic, but without the camera techniques working hand in glove with Rian Johnson’s script, Glass Onion wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.
In the final analysis, Glass Onion proves to be a vegetable you’ll definitely want to take a bite out of without fear of shedding a tear. An old adage in showbusiness is “leave them wanting more.” As far as I’m concerned, Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig can go on making Benoit Blanc mysteries until the end of time. Give me about fifty of these suckers in any medium.
My rating system:
1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
Glass Onion: 9/10