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.