After dazzling audiences with 2019’s Knives Out, Rian Johnson is back again with another murder mystery starring his Foghorn Leghorn-sounding detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). But of course it wouldn’t be Rian Johnson if he didn’t try to completely subvert expectations. As a result Glass Onion is an entirely different setting, style, and type of mystery than its predecessor. But the results are equally thrilling and hilarious.
Weekend in Greece
Opening in May of 2020, we the audience are taken back to the initial worldwide lockdown during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is here that are introduced to our ensemble cast of characters: Connecticut Governor Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), has been model Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), and men’s rights activist Duke Cody (Dave Bautista).
They all receive an invitation from their friend and billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) to come to his private island in Greece for the weekend and participate in a murder-mystery game. Along for the weekend is famed detective Benoit Blanc. At first, he seems the odd one out, as does Bron’s ex-wife Andi (Janelle Monáe). Quickly, things take a dark turn from a murder-mystery game to an actual murder which Blanc must now solve.
Much like Knives Out, Glass Onion’s greatest strength is its amazing ensemble. Each actor brings something interesting and often hilarious to the table. And even the very minor side characters get moments to shine. Part of the running joke is that Blanc is often surrounded by characters who are just terrible human beings, but with that being the case, none of them feel like caricatures. Even the horrible things they do seem justified, at least to their desperate selves.
The Greek island setting also presents a sense of isolation that really spices things up (pun very intended if you’ve actually seen the movie). As a result, there’s a real sense of danger that anyone could be murdered and any minute. And with these characters being the only ones here, it really cranks up the tension, while never letting up on Rian Johnson’s signature sarcastic sense of humor.
Setting the movie during the 2020 worldwide quarantine was a bold choice because it could have very easily backfired. It could have come off as a tacky gimmick that didn’t really add to the story. But it works because it instantly makes it relatable to all of us who went through that as well. And it makes the reunion between the characters all the more meaningful because they’re tired of being in quarantine.
When we first see Benoit Blanc, he’s a shell of his former self, feeling lost without a case. And with the quarantine in place, it makes him all the more anxious and depressed about not having a purpose in life. Blanc clearly gets his entire motivation and life’s purpose from solving mysteries, and in Glass Onion, we see a more personal vulnerable side of him that shows us just how much he needs his job to survive.
Without getting into spoilers (which is incredibly difficult to do while discussing a film like this), Glass Onion takes quite a few satirical jabs at things like influencer culture and the way in which we worship tech billionaires when they end up not being as brilliant as we thought. A certain character is not so subtly “inspired” by a seeming amalgamation of several tech giants who enjoy hero worship by some, but have largely been the subject of negative press lately.
And that’s sort of what makes Glass Onion oddly prophetic. While billionaires have always had their critics (with Rian Johnson clearly among them), Glass Onion is made all the more relevant as it features a billionaire character who is nowhere near as smart as he professes to be.
And it’s being released the very same month that Elon Musk is very publicly running Twitter into the ground, Mark Zuckerberg is facing criticism for the Meta failure and subsequent layoffs, and Sam Bankman-Fried has been exposed as a fraud as his cryptocurrency exchange is collapsing (and with it billions of investors’ money).
Glass Onion may have been shot over a year ago during summer 2021, but many of its scathing and satirical jabs at the perceived “genius” of tech billionaires are incredibly relevant right around the time of its release. And that’s something that you just can’t make up. Because if you did, it would be too on the nose, except it’s a very real coincidence.
Much like its predecessor, Glass Onion is layered with twist after twist, and a myriad of hilarious performances. Janelle Monáe particularly stands out as the character you go in really rooting for. Even in their more cartoonish moments, each character is fleshed out perfectly, and Glass Onion is but one of countless murder-mysteries Blanc will end up solving on Netflix!
What did you think of Glass Onion? How did it compare to Knives Out? Let us know in the comments!