Glass Onion (Review): Had Me In the First Half

Rian Johnson’s original gentleman detective story gets a sequel. But what did I think of Glass Onion? That’s the mystery. Read on to find out…

Miles Bron (Edward Norton) is an elusive billionaire genius who lives on a private island. His closest friends receive invitations to said island for their yearly get together. The party’s theme: to investigate Bron’s murder! Also invited is world-famous detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). What begins as a lighthearted game, with simmering tensions between the guests, boils over into life or death stakes.

First off: I’d like to assure potential viewers that they need not watch Knives Out before Glass Onion. This film is effectively a stand-alone adventure for Benoit Blanc, with an all new supporting cast. And I prefer it that way! Resetting the narrative with each film gives the series longevity, and more openly invites new fans. I’m sick of films (*cough* the MCU) serializing themselves so thoroughly that they’re off-putting to casual viewers.

Glass Onion is a well-paced and riveting adventure which kept my undivided focus throughout! The first half especially maintained my attention, as I absorbed myself into this world, learned the characters’ motivations, and hypothesized what they’d do within their confines. The world is quickly and effectively established, and the new characters are fast-defined.

Where Glass Onion falters is its second half, where it re-creates the first half from a new perspective. It was, in principle, cool to see what REALLY happened on the island. But this narrative choice killed the story’s flow. You’ll probably think it’s cool for a couple minutes before you want to see the resolution… Then you’ve gotta wait and wait and wait.

Perhaps it’s my own lack of patience which affected my enjoyment here. There were enough new reveals to keep me invested. But my adoration of Glass Onion never reached the heights to which it peaked in half #1.

But what of the resolution? ‘Twas funnier than expected, actually. Fans of whodunits may be disappointed at how simple the crime turned out to be after 2 hours of twists and turns. Rian Johnson famously takes glee in subverting our expectations. And he delivered a surprisingly great pay-off for his off-beat murder-mystery. I certainly didn’t see it coming!

But the aforementioned payoff sequence dragged past its natural wrap-up. Its excessiveness was part of the point, but I still got bored after the millionth shattering of (SPOILER). I left the theatre satisfied though.

I alluded to a funny ending above. So I’ll double back to that and warn you whodunit purists that Glass Onion is essentially a comedy. A lot of its humor didn’t land. But many jokes left me amused. I wish Glass Onion had played itself more straight, like its predecessor, but I appreciate Johnson wishing to switch up his formula. Plenty of people (who aren’t me) will love the oddly light tone of this murder mystery.

Daniel Craig’s performance as Benoit Blanc astounds me! I’m so used to seeing him in gruff and tough roles like James Bond that its delightful to witness such a grand change in character. Craig shines in this role! He gets to show his comedy chops, play awkward, charming, intelligent, and exude room-commanding gravitas.

Janelle MonĂ¡e is, interestingly enough, the TRUE star of Glass Onion (I assumed it would be Craig). Her performance is impressively complex. Though it helps her character, Andy, carries more emotional depth than anyone else.

The other characters were distinctive and maintained compelling motivations. Not all roles were written equal, but everyone got their stand-out moments. Importantly: This ensemble was a joy to watch perform off each other!

My biggest disappointment with the cast was Jessica Henwick. And that’s not because her performance was weak. No– I was upset she didn’t get enough to do! I’m a fan of Henwick’s, and she deserved a meatier role.

Rian Johnson’s writing and direction exceeded my expectations. Long dialogue scenes served equal parts narrative function and entertainment value. And I expect to get more out of Glass Onion on a second viewing. Its plot twists so much it’s a proverbial Gordian Knot… and solved as easily too. Though it keeps viewers of average intelligence (like myself) guessing till the last moment.

Still I question Johnson’s idea to set Glass Onion during the pandemic. I got anxious watching characters walk around in masks, take Zoom calls, work from home, and talk about public spread of illness… They dropped most pandemic references by the time everyone reached the island. But that only makes me wonder why they were even included to begin with! We’re still close enough to the worst of the virus that it stresses people out– and these references badly date the film (already).

Glass Onion features gorgeous set designs! The titled location felt like a James Bond villain lair– an eccentric and fragile place. Even its gardens were somehow cold and metallic. Priceless artwork lines the walls and floors. Yet Bron’s utter disregard for these works’ preservation cements him as a man too rich to value anything (save for two pieces for which he’s sentimental).

Jenny Eagan’s costume designs for Benoit Blanc and Birdie were notably stylish! I always see it as a good marker for costume design when I want a characters’ clothes in my wardrobe. And Benoit Blanc’s outfits would be lovely to own.

Rian Johnson’s latest film offers a fresh take on the gentleman detective murder mystery sub-genre. Its plot is investing, though somewhat drags in the second half; its film-making craft is excellent; and its a generally entertaining product. I’ll happily watch these Benoit Blanc mysteries for as long as Johnson wishes to make them!

Glass Onion‘s layers peel back to reveal a film you Must See.

Why do you think these gentleman detective stories endure in popular culture? What did you think of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *