Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery ★★★★

2022 Ranked

MoMA Contenders 2022 #6
Introduced by Rian Johnson and Janelle Monáe

In the introduction to the screening, Rian Johnson and Janelle Monáe didn't want to say too much. They didn't want to give anything away, they didn't really want to talk about themselves. All they wanted to communicate to us was that they hoped we'd have a fucking blast watching Glass Onion.

And you know what? I had a fucking blast!

Rian Johnson's follow-up to the endlessly fun and amazing murder-mystery escapade Knives Out does exactly as the original does best: subverting any and all expectations. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery could've easily been about Benoit Blanc solving another whodunit with a dead body at the center of the whole story. But of course, that'd be too easy for Johnson.

Instead, we have a completely new gang of characters all going off to visit a billionaire's island for a murder-mystery weekend game - and to say anything more would be entirely unfair to Johnson's twist-and-turny screenplay that is not only subverting narrative arc expectations, but subverting sequel-syndrome expectations.

A few things of note:

Talk about successful COVID art! We'll see how well the specifics hold up in 50 years, but maybe it wasn't made with a goal of longevity. Maybe it was made to be a film for exactly this moment in time, and it totally knocks it out of the park. The incorporation of lockdown and masks is perfectly done.

Speaking of COVID, Johnson's political angle also pulls from the lockdown. Setting the film in May of 2020, it only seems obvious that it would climax with BLM. Johnson's sincere commitment to the theme keeps it from being preachy, but it's still more shallow than I'd like. Similar to Johnson's angle on immigration in the first, it's meaty enough to not be annoying but still ends up being the weakest aspect of the film.

The other thing that had mixed effect on me is Johnson's big halfway twist. Doing my best to avoid giving anything away, but as a subversion he basically hits the climax at the halfway point and goes into a sub-narrative that arcs entirely within the climax. It rides out for a long time and the catharsis of the build wore off on me by the end. I really appreciate Johnson's continued experimentation with form, but ultimately I think it ended up having a weaker effect on me than had he stuck to a more traditional build.

This ensemble is absolutely incredible. Not a weak link in the bunch. Daniel Craig has much more character development to work with here, especially since he's seemingly not-in-control like he is in the first. He's continually proving his greatness as he exits the world of Bond. Janelle Monáe, too, shines in Glass Onion as our surprise guest, showing again her magnificent virtuosity beyond her work as a musician.

Cameos galore! The best cameos all year. And of course, any film dedicated to Stephen Sondheim and Angela Lansbury knows its way to my heart.

Design! Costumes, production, cinematography! So fun, so beautiful, so impeccable.

Endless homages to the great noirs before it. And in spirit of a Sondheim dedication, Johnson finally got to make his The Last of Sheila.

Popcorn movie of the season. Keep the Benoit Blanc serials coming, this is turning into the best Hollywood franchise in years.

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