Glass Onion

Glass Onion ★★★★

As Kenneth Branagh has recently proven, Knives Out was pretty much the death knell for the rote whodunnit, signalling a collective desire to stray from the Clue-centric style of claustrophobic mystery-solving. When such a unique take on a tired formula itself becomes the basis for a series, some might understandably fear a parodic self-implosion; the hero turning into the villain before our very eyes. If those were your hesitations going into Glass Onion, then once again, Rian Johnson has proven himself a master of subversion.

Consequently, if your fears of Glass Onion, coming out of Knives Out, were that Johnson would continue to tangle his clump of yarn with undying elan and no thoughts spared for those seeking a straightforward journey, then he may very well be delivering exactly what you expected, and didn't want. So laborious is his constructed mystery that I wouldn't blame a soul for tapping out at the first sign of extended flashback sequences. But as soon as Johnson introduces a groan-worthy trope of the plot twist-heavy melodrama and actually uses it to elevate the tension, those of us on board with Glass Onion's shenanigans can count ourselves in it for the long haul. The film, like its organic namesake, has layers, but those layers are for sheer entertainment value rather than pedantic posturing; Johnson is flexing his narrative trickery, but in a manner that feels inviting, not condescending.

Unlike Adam McKay, Johnson seems to understand how to properly utilize an ensemble comedy cast, foregoing the biggest box office draws in favour of a reliable set of A-list supporting players to accompany his one returning protagonist. Once more, these characters play into moulds that clearly took the writer less time to develop than the murder mystery enveloping them, but everyone from Janelle Monáe to Kathryn Hahn shows up as a team player, with no vain attempts to be a standout for all the wrong reasons (take note, Rylance...).

Perhaps the biggest star of Glass Onion, besides Johnson himself, is the film's shiny island setting—the culmination of Elon Musk and Martin Shkreli's wet dreams. Netflix bankrolled the sequel and its planned follow-up from their seemingly bottomless pit of blood money, and even with the same budget as its predecessor, Glass Onion certainly appears expensive enough for its brand name—half a billion dollars on the acquisition rights?!?!?! Somehow, though, that sleeker edge actually informs the personality of this platform of mayhem, making for the perfect 21st century labyrinth through which to place this group of vapid lab rats.

The world owes Rian Johnson an apology. And by "the world," I of course mean the small but vocal contingent of grown-up crybabies who decried Johnson as a "woke" pariah because the sloppy but admittedly effortful Star Wars: The Last Jedi actually bothered taking some risks in a franchise that could, at the time, more than afford it. Then again, the arguable failure of The Last Jedi may have been a blessing in disguise, for imagine how much of the director's gleeful tomfoolery would have gone to waste on a promised trilogy of Lucasfilm products. Instead, we got the birth of Johnson's rightful franchise—one whose unapologetic deconstruction of genre conventions laid the foundation for a series capable of constant reinvention through a single formula.

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