Review: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Score: A-

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Dave Bautista, Kate Hudson

Running Time: 149 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

Pulling off a trick once is impressive. Pulling it off again often is not, unless the magician manages to top himself. Rian Johnson, gleefully using the larger budget provided him by Netflix, has managed to top himself.

For the first 20 minutes or so, it might not seem like it. The band of rich jerks Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) finds himself embedded in feels more cartoony than the Thrombey family of Knives Out. Even Craig seems to be laying on the Southern mannerisms a little thick. But once night falls on the island home of reclusive billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) and a guest dies mysteriously, the twists and the laughs keep piling up until you're left with the best comedy of the year.

This elite group of pals includes tech developer Lionel (Leslie Odom, Jr.), U.S. Senate candidate Claire (Kathryn Hahn), fashion influencer Birdie (Kate Hudson), and Twitch streamer Duke (Dave Bautista). The unexpected guests include Blanc and Andi (Monáe), the former business partner of Miles, who rightfully harbors deep resentment for being cut out of his massive fortune.

But one of the many pleasures of Glass Onion is realizing no one is exactly who they seem at first. Murky motivations slowly become clear. And then a major twist - which I would never spoil - happens, pulling the rug out from under you. Everything after that is a dizzy delight, adding new context to early scenes in a way that proves just how brilliant Johnson is. As Blanc says repeatedly, there are multiple layers but the answers were in plain sight. Glass Onion is not just the name of Miles' compound, and not just the name of a Beatles song; it's a metaphor for this whole hilarious, twisted story. (There's also another meaning, integral to the story itself.)

Though written in 2021 and set during the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson's writing is so sharp that none of it feels dated. Insensitive comments, unethical brand endorsements, dangerous "revolutionary" tech innovations and far-right shifts from celebrities continue to bombard us daily, making the satirical elements feel razor-sharp. Once again, greedy fools are the targets of his barbs, and they all land.

If the immaculately designed film has a flaw, it's a minor one, and one that plagued the first film. With so many characters, some of them are bound to get short shrift. The biggest victim in that regard is Jessica Henwick as Peg, Birdie's put-upon assistant. She's definitely doing excellent work in a limited role, but she's not as integral to the story as the rest of the cast. It's a minor complaint in a movie this entertaining.

One of the most purely pleasurable movies of the year, Glass Onion is yet another delicious whodunnit from Rian Johnson. Savor it.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.