Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is one of the great whodunnits, a scintillating piece of work that includes all the best aspects of the genre: death, mystery, comedy and revenge. Directed by Rain Johnson with absolute confidence and remarkable precision, it’s a Netflix release that takes the spirit of Knives Out and adds a new story and more structure. Every piece of the puzzle has been given the utmost attention to detail, as to not let the entire house of cards crumble before the final act.
The setting is an isle off the coast of Greece, where tech billionaire Miles (Edward Norton) has gathered his pals for a week-long Clue-style murder mystery game. The guest list includes ex-business partner Andi (Janelle Monae), current-business partner Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), social media influencer Duke (Dave Bautista), shady government candidate Claire (Katheryn Hahn), skinny fitness model Whisky (Medeline Claire), ditzy fashion designer Birdie (Kate Hudson) and her plus-one, Peg (Jessica Henwick), the assistant who constantly has to clean up her mess. Oh, and there’s detective Blanc (Daniel Craig), who was not invited but who is here for reasons that will soon become clear.
When one of the guests winds up dead, it’s no longer a game of cards anymore. It’s a game of chess, except every square is a room and every piece is a friend who wants to move closer to Miles. Everyone is here to win over the man who funds their company, which gets complicated when he wants to sell a new product that will hurt the environment. The movie does a great job revealing these people for who they are–money-hungry leeches–and does an even better job setting up everyone’s reasons to knock off their host.
The house is a matchbox of wounded egos; any spark could set the whole thing up in flames. Blanc goes over the history of the group, and the events unfold while he questions the capability of each friend to commit such crimes. Johnson’s script is light on tension yet heavy on subtext, every word and phrase taking on new meaning as Blanc dives deeper into the case. At times, it can feel like Clue on cocaine or Agatha Christie on adderall, with so many plausible characters and motives being thrown at the screen, but Blanc keeps it grounded as a detective doing the best he can while stuck on Spoiled Island.
Glass Onion captures the texture of this bright, glamorous location, the smallness of the land against the eternity of the sea, and the salty human dramas that play out upon it. Johnson takes to the isle with ease, his art department doing a lot of the work for him. The score, by Nathan Johnson, is used sparingly but evokes a wicked sense of fun, while the costumes from Jenny Eagen add to the dark-yet-colorful vibe. In the same way Knives Out made a meal out of the cable-knit sweaters of Maine, Glass Onion prepares a feast out of the white-linen pants of Greece. It’s a treat to watch the story unfold against this backdrop, and viewers will find themselves hooked from start to finish.
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