After Knives Out‘s Academy Award-winning success, Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson tackled his biggest murder mystery yet. Despite audience trepidation over the impossibility of turning the standalone film into an anthology trilogy, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery works hard to surpass its predecessor. And it succeeds at practically every turn.
A big factor in Knives Out’s success is its ensemble cast. Ana de Armas was the perfect costar to Daniel Craig’s now-iconic detective Benoit Blanc. The film was also Chris Evan‘s post-Marvel debut as an iconic, fisherman sweater-wearing villain, who stood out with his delectably evil charm. But given that this is indeed an anthology, Glass Onion brings a superstar cast all on its own, with the likes of Kathryn Hahn, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Leslie Odom Jr., Edward Norton, Jessica Henwick, and the impeccable Janelle Monáe. Craig once again slips into Blanc’s shoes, his bourbon-smooth-yet-unplaceable Southern accent bringing us right back into Johnson’s world. This time, we’re transported to a private Greek island circa 2020, and the famous detective is hungry for a new case. Glass Onion ends up delivering an even bigger murder mystery than its predecessor, one dead-set on upping every ante. Somehow, it manages to do exactly that.
With such a deliciously sculpted mystery – one fueled by fun plot twists – it’s actually a little difficult to do an in depth Glass Onion review without giving away too much. The best way to experience this story is, of course, going in without any spoilers whatsoever. The delivery of the film’s surprises, however, is sure to reel you in even if you are unfortunately spoiled. I know I risk overstating myself here, but the point is worth repeating: Rian Johnson completely outdoes himself with Glass Onion. He’s crafted a story so chock-full of ideas that it never feels like he was hammering away just to deliver Knives Out‘s complete opposite. With Glass Onion, Johnson takes us on a brand-new adventure, one bathed in the same magical style of the first film and with a notable through-line in its satirical commentary on the rich and powerful. To my great and pleasant surprise, much of Glass Onion manages to subvert expectations based on Johnson’s earlier formula; at the Toronto International Film Festival world premiere, even die-hard fans were on the edge of their seats. Most important of all, this cleverly concocted puzzle remains delightful and entertaining above all else.
Daniel Craig’s endlessly charming take on his very own Hercule Poirot-esque persona propels Glass Onion to new heights. Blanc’s wicked-sharp observations and deductions make peeling back the layers of this mystery that much more fun. It’s not at all a stretch to say that with Glass Onion Craig delivers a far more career-defining performance than with all of his James Bond films put together. Benoit Blanc, combined with Glass Onion‘s direction, create something that brims with childlike joy over puzzles and invites the audience to guess its next move. Johnson’s equally charismatic cinematography plays hand-in-hand alongside the ensemble cast, giving each character their own spotlight in which to shine.
After Craig, though, the biggest spotlight is reserved for Janelle Monáe. They’re no stranger to acting, with a filmography that already includes critically acclaimed work in Hidden Figures and Best Picture winner Moonlight. But Monáe’s role in Glass Onion is unlike anything we’ve seen them do thus far in their impressive artistic career. Their duality throughout the film is dynamite exploding beside Craig. Monáe simply radiates charisma and dominates every moment they’re on screen. Which isn’t to take anything away from the rest of Glass Onion‘s powerhouse cast – the talent on display in the film is a tribute to the strength of Monáe’s work.
Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with Glass Onion harder than you did for Knives Out. Johnson manages to evoke and evolve the magic of the first film rather than merely recapture it. Though both films are openly influenced by Agatha Christie’s novels, Glass Onion’s old-school murder in a new-school setting is quite simply the perfect formula for rooting against the rich.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery premiered at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2022. The film is set to release in theaters November 2022 and on Netflix on December 23, 2022. It is directed by Rian Johnson and stars Daniel Craig; Janelle Monáe; Kathryn Hahn; Leslie Odom Jr.; Kate Hudson; Dave Bautista; Edward Norton; Jessica Henwick; and Madelyn Cline.