Glass Onion review: Daniel Craig shines in Knives Out sequel

Glass Onion review: Daniel Craig shines in Knives Out sequel

(Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF)

Glass Onion is a “hugely entertaining” follow-up to Knives Out, writes Caryn James, with a new cast including Janelle Monáe, Edward Norton and Kate Hudson.

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Daniel Craig is in it. To say too much more about Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery would be to spoil this hugely entertaining follow-up to 2019’s Knives Out. Where the original family members-turned-der suspects being investigated Craig’s hilariously over-the-top world-famous mur detective, Glass Onion relies on plot secrets, lies misunderstandings and mistaken identities. Filled with delicious cameos and loaded with more comic moments than the previous film – even a slow trickle of hot sauce becomes suspenseful and funny – Glass Onion brings in a new cast of suspects, puts them on a billionaire’s private island in Greece, and sends in Blanc to figure out what they’re all up to.

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Edward Norton plays the mogul, Miles Bron, whose company is involved in scientific research and space travel and whom Norton gives the blithe confidence of Elon Musk. Bron invites a group of old friends to be his guests on the island, where they will play a murder mystery game with their host as the victim. Of course, an actual murder must be looming, but Johnson’s clever screenplay is many steps ahead of that.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Directed by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daniel Craig, Janelle Monae, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson
Film length: 2hr 19m

He begins by establishing the motley assortment of characters. Each of them receives a gift box from Bron that seems to contain a solid block of wood, but in fact conceals an elaborate set of puzzles and his invitation from him. Among the guests, whose names hardly register, Kate Hudson is vibrant as a once-famous fashion model with a tendency to blunder her way into saying and tweeting ethnic slurs. Leslie Odom Jr is serious as a brilliant scientist who works for Bron and receives old-timey faxes from him – a sign of the billionaire’s eccentricity – at all hours. Dave Bautista plays a gun-carrying men’s rights advocate with a million social media followers and Kathryn Hahn is the liberal governor of Connecticut. Somehow, they were all once friends who regularly met at their local bar, The Glass Onion. That’s hard to imagine, but then no one watches a comic murder mystery for plausibility. The unexpected guests include Janelle Monáe’s character, Andi, who co-founded Bron’s company only to be cut out. And there is Blanc, whose reason for joining the group is one of the film’s secrets.

Bron’s house is an amazing contraption, with a glass dome on top, named The Glass Onion in homage to their old bar. Despite the elaborate setting, the film is shot in the straightforward style of a television mystery. Bron has Matisse and Degas paintings everywhere, and even the actual Mona Lisa, or so he says. Naturally, nothing anyone says here can be taken at face value, and a major plot swerve halfway through changes everything. The baffled Andi is right when she says, “This just never happens in Clue.”

Craig’s deliberately hammy Southern accent is a bit toned down from the first Knives Out, but Blanc still says things like “Fiddlesticks” and “Hell’s Bells”, and still masquerades as the clueless down-home gentleman we know he’s not. Craig’s performance is wily and joyful, and the film’s biggest flaw is that there is too little of him, as Johnson often turns the spotlight from Blanc to other characters.

Among them, Monáe is a standout, with Andi glowering among the friends who abandoned her when she sued Bron. You could say that corporate greed and deception are themes here, but this slight mystery wouldn’t support that weight. After a murder has happened and some secrets are revealed, Hudson’s character yells, “What is reality?” – a funny, perfectly delivered line that comes and goes as fleetingly as it should. The film’s semi-attachment to reality is one of Johnson’s jokes. The story is set in May 2020, with everyone, especially Blanc, stir-crazy during the Covid lockdown. And they were only two months in! When the guests arrive in Greece, a convenient plot device allows them to ditch their masks.

It will probably take no time at all for spoilers to start arriving online, but Johnson is ahead of that too. Glass Onion will be just as much fun to watch a second time, knowing even more than Blanc does.

★★★☆☆

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is released on Netflix on 23 December.

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