Glass Onion

Glass Onion ★★★★

In Glass Onion, Johnson and co. build up an intricate puzzle box — with you watching — and then pull it all apart. It’s all genre play, a Johnson motif, as it falls predictably into place before doing a severe 180. But it works, pulling off the same tricks as the former film while seeming to diverge from it, and all of it works — even the teases of conventionality — because Johnson is so good at doing the predictable.

Genre tropes work for a reason, when done well they deliver sheer satisfaction. There’s also the comfortable joy of the predictable: I know where this going, I anticipate what is to come. Johnson delivers this all, and does it well. The opening act is pastiche and homage, perhaps even parody: a hyperbolised, classic whodunnit where all the pieces are being clearly set up. The larger than life elements are all very entertaining, enjoyably topical references taking up the limelight to let the filmmakers do some trickery in the background.

You are so focused on the setting up of the expected smoke and mirrors that you don’t notice the… the actual smoke and mirrors. It’s the glass onion, the film even talks about it. All the layers are there from the beginning. Everything is in plain sight. It’s all obvious, we are just focusing on design and flashiness.

But what flashiness it is. The architecture, the design, the implementation, it’s all a distracting joy. A broad and eclectic world is made with enough to pull out investment and attention, then we learn what the actual film is. It’s surprisingly similar to this year’s Decision to Leave in feel, where the filmmaker just expertly takes you through a carefully planned contraption, gleefully explaining their tricks as you go.

The end result of this is like being at a whodunnit theme park. It has so much fun being itself and never promises you anything but fakery. It unveils itself towards the end but it was always there, it was always just a ride and it was always only ever going one way. Ultimately, it’s really just a vehicle to make a stylish as hell film about how Elon Musk is an idiot.

It’s prescient. But, again, that’s the glass onion for you: some things were obvious all along if you just looked directly at them.

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