Glass Onion

glass onion

If, like me, you had the means to watch Glass Onion but for whatever reason had been procrastinating, I advise you to jump on in. This franchise, which began with 2019’s Knives Out, is shaping up to be a perfect delight. (You don’t need to have seen the first movie to follow this one.) The films take their cue from Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), the sharp, drawling detective at their center, whose raciocinative acumen narrowly tops his keen sense of fashion. Here, Benoit goes to a private island owned by tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who has sent out puzzle-box invitations to a murder-mystery party he has planned. Of course, the plot is a bit more complicated; the preceding sentence is not to be trusted fully — it describes what happens but, of necessity, omits a lot.

The first sequence introduces us to all the suspects, who know Miles from back before he was really Miles Bron. (Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed Glass Onion as well as Knives Out, assures us that Miles’ similarity to Elon Musk is coincidental.) There’s governor Kathryn Hahn, model/fashionista Kate Hudson and her assistant Jessica Henwick, masculinist YouTuber Dave Bautista and his girlfriend Madelyn Cline, scientist Leslie Odom Jr., and former Miles associate Janelle Monae. We’re led to believe any of them might have a motive for killing Miles. That may well be, but Benoit Blanc suspects the truth is more tangled.

Stories like Glass Onion are hard to review without spoiling them, so that’s about all I’ll say about the goings-on. I would chat a bit about the small pleasures tucked away in the margins, but that would give away all the jokes — the Benoit Blanc films are as much comedies as mysteries. So what’s left? I can praise how it’s told and the tools used. Johnson (who got his start in features with the neo-noir Brick) writes and directs these movies with grace and wit; his camera follows the lead of the script, every move and pan in place to support — or buttress, if you will, a word favored by our courtly Benoit — the tale. And since that tale gets a little convoluted, with an extended flashback, Johnson knows that absolute filmmaking clarity is vital to our understanding.

Glass Onion cost $40 million, a pittance in Hollywood terms today, but has a posh, expensive look. Cinematographer Steve Yedlin, who’s been working with Johnson since Brick, lights the characters warmly as contrast with their cold glass surroundings. His burnished images, wedded to Nathan Johnson’s rich, old-school score, take us to a comfortable past when money was still spent on divertissements for grown-ups and no expense was spared to make everything and everybody look good. If nothing else, the Benoit Blanc movies have an effortless style (wherein a ton of effort goes into making it all seem effortless) that a viewer of a certain age can take in without feeling insulted or visually tricked. The puzzle boxes may look implausible in real space, but these movies tweak reality ever so slightly. It’s still recognizably our world, but with charming little filigrees like a gag-inducing throat spray that presumably offers protection against COVID (the film is set in the first few months of the pandemic). 

Daniel Craig was always a better actor than James Bond allowed him to be. Anyone who knew that will be happy to see him amiably flourishing post-Bond as the suave master detective who, at a loss between cases, sits in his tub playing online mystery games with celebrities associated with mysteries. Craig lifts up anyone he’s sparring with, too; Edward Norton sprinkles some intellectual insecurity onto his not-Elon Musk, and if Netflix had allowed Glass Onion to play longer in theaters the film might have done for Janelle Monae what its predecessor did for Ana de Armas. Monae is terrific, fully popping, at last, as a movie star. All the actors here, really, seem snuggled by the warm camera eye. These movies know that even if a character is an irredeemable murderer, that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun to watch.

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Explore posts in the same categories: comedy, mystery, one of the year's best, sequel

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