After getting to screen Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery at the Austin Film Festival a few weeks back, I was chomping at the bit to share my in-depth analysis of why this film is such a great follow-up to Knives Out. Now that the film is enjoying a limited theatrical release, more people are getting to experience the murder mystery mastery of Rian Johnson and I could not be more thrilled. However, the twists and turns that this franchise is known for are so juicy that I am willing to hold off on my full review and give everyone a little more time to see the film before really unpacking the plot.
Thus, I have taken on the nearly impossible task of providing a spoiler-free review.
When Knives Out was released back in 2019, a lot of people underestimated just how great it was going to be. These ensemble pieces are often disregarded, as though the stellar cast somehow tarnishes the quality of the film. I do think film-goers anticipated the humorous moments, as these were evident in every television spot and advertisement - particularly those that featured Chris Evans’ character, Ransom. What they weren’t prepared for was how complex of a whodunit the narrative would turn out to be. They didn’t yet appreciate how much of a murder mystery aficionado Rian Johnson truly is. And his ode to Agatha Christie in the first installment of the franchise (yes, franchise) was quite an impressive homage.
After the film was lauded by critics and audiences alike - even garnering a nomination at the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay for Rian Johnson - people wanted more.
But when you have a film that gains traction after being underestimated in the way Knives Out was, the pressure for the sequel to measure up is even greater.
The short answer is: Yes - when you're Rian Johnson and you have your thumb on the pulse of society and match that with another gratifying and captivating web of mystery like he has done here in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
When it came to the set-up of this sequel, Johnson employed the same strategy that Christie did, choosing to leave Marta and the Thrombey family and follow his detective onto his next case. A wise decision as he truly created his own Hercule Poirot with Benoit Blanc - a similarly elusive and singular character who is both clever and just ridiculous enough to add wit and humor to each interaction. And Johnson has really kicked that comedic aspect up a notch in this one, reintroducing us to a Blanc who is feeling very aimless in the midst of quarantine.
There have been several narratives in the past couple years that use the lockdown-time-capsule approach to their story, but Johnson really leaned into it as far as he could, with commentary on pods, masks, vaccines, and, of course, the billionaires who find their way around all of these restrictions. With the subject matter he’s explored thus far in the Knives Out franchise, it is clear that he does not pull punches when it comes to expressing his disdain for privileged people.
Just like Christie, Johnson throws some social commentary in with the mystery as it unfolds, keeping things very relatable and accessible to the viewer. It’s a true testament to his writing that he can keep us engaged in a story that is chock-full of such unlikeable characters. Each “suspect” seems to have been derived from the worst of the worst - misogynistic gun-toting internet stars, vapid cover girls, corrupt politicians and even the Elon Musks of the world.
I promised a spoiler-free review of Glass Onion, so I’m not going to go into any more specifics about the plot here. But I will leave you with this...
5. You love whodunits and want to see their ridiculous aspects mocked, their twists subverted and their tropes followed. Basically, if you enjoyed Knives Out and wanted more of what that film excelled at, you will not be disappointed.
Oh, and if you’re a fan of Murder, She Wrote, you’re gonna be happy. Trust me.